The Charlotte 49ers (23-30, 12-17 C-USA) clinched their spot Saturday afternoon to play in the Conference USA (C-USA) tournament in Hattiesburg, MS after holding on to beat the Blazers of UAB 6-4 in the last game of the season at the Hayes.
On a day honoring the seniors for Charlotte, senior Nate Traugh, a Fredericksburg, VA native, received the win out of the bullpen, throwing 3.2 innings while only surrendering one run on three hits, and striking out four on 44 pitches.
Another senior from Fredericksburg, VA who made an impact on the game was Derek Gallello, coming up with a couple big defensive plays while also going 2-for-2 at the plate with two runs scored, keeping both seniors’ careers alive.
The 49ers struck early, scoring two runs in the second after a lead-off single from T.J. Nichting up the middle, followed by a Gallello walk. With two outs and Nichting and Gallello up 90 feet further to home after a pass ball, Eddie Hull smacked a ball to deep left-center field, bringing in the first two runs for Charlotte, giving them a 2-0 lead.
The UAB Blazers quickly responded with two runs of their own in the top of the third, behind three hits and one 49er error, following the weekend trend of “You score, We score” in Saturday’s finale.
The C-USA No. 8 seed team was decided in the last two innings of play at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, as both teams just needed that one last win to make it to Mississippi for the conference tournament.
UAB went on top 3-2 in the sixth inning with two hits in the inning, scoring that one run on a suicide bunt right back to the pitcher, giving the Blazers a lead late in the game.
But, if the game was going to go as it had all weekend long, it was just a matter of time before the 49ers would strike back.
Charlotte stuck back by tallying four runs in the sixth, giving them a 6-3 lead. Zach Jarrett led off the inning with a double to right-center, advancing to third and then scoring on an error after a wild throw from the second baseman to first to try and throw out Hunter Jones.
After a crazy bunt from Gallello that soared over the pitchers head, Hull bunted Jones and Gallello to second and third to put two runners on for Nick Daddio. The junior catcher reached on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop who threw home on the play, not being in time to get Jones for Charlotte’s second run of the inning.
Now with a 4-3 lead, Charlotte scored their next run off of a wild pick-off attempt to third base, scoring Gallello and moving Daddio up to third base with a two-run cushion. Reece Hampton joined in on the party with one out, scoring Daddio with a deep fly-ball to center field, giving Charlotte a 6-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh, the last inning of the game.
Austin Wynn came on to pitch for the 49ers in the seventh, allowing a couple hits but got a timely double-play on a line-out to first base, making it easy for Logan Sherer to step on first for the second out.
Wynn needed Philip Perry’s assistance to save the game, while Perry was assisted by an incredible back-hand diving play by Brett Netzer up the middle to leave two runners on base and leave the UAB Blazers with no postseason appearance in 2016.
With the win, Charlotte earned the No. 8 seed in the C-USA tournament and will now play Florida Atlantic in the first round in Hattiesburg, MS Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.