FORT MILL -- Good to be home.
Better to win.
Charlotte rode a fine pitching performance from Lance Broadway and a 4-for-4 night from Josh Fields to win its home opener 4-1 over Columbus on Friday. The weary Knights, who opened the season with seven straight road games, sat through a Thursday rainout and took an early bus ride home from Toledo, Ohio, on Friday morning, had enough energy to outlast a stubborn Clippers lineup, which took a 2-1 game into the eighth inning before Charlotte pulled away.
"It was negative-30 where we were," said Broadway (2-0), after giving up five hits and three walks but only one run in seven innings. "I don't understand why we had to start up north in the beginning of the season. It's warm down here."
He could have been talking about the weather or the hospitality. More than 7,000 fans showed up to welcome the Knights (5-3) and got an entertaining show.
Fields drove in Charlotte's first run with a third-inning single and broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth by crushing his first home run of the year, to right-center. Given the lead again, Broadway pitched out of trouble in his last inning before turning it over to Jason Childers in the eighth, who gave way to closer Ehren Wassermann.
Wassermann, who'd already come up perfect in his first three save opportunities, walked his first two batters in the ninth, but regrouped. He whiffed Will Nieves on a nasty curve and got Ray Olmedo to ground into a double play, sealing the win and keeping his record spotless.
"He did a good job in the big leagues last year, they brought him in late, and when he was in here last year, he wasn't exactly a stopper," said manager Marc Bombard, back for his second season with the Knights. "He's a good competitor out there. You like somebody out there with that kind of makeup."
Wassermann was echoing the Knights' late surge. Taking that 2-1 lead into the eighth, Charlotte wasted no time getting some insurance.
Dewayne Wise led off with a single and moved to third on Fields' single. The Clippers (2-7) intentionally walked Brad Eldred to load the bases and Royce Huffman scored Wise with a bloop single that fell just inside the line.
Mike Rouse smacked a one-out sacrifice fly to bring home Fields, but Huffman was nailed for the third out. The relay throw attempting to get Fields at the plate sailed high, but pitcher Mike Bacsik was backing up the play, and when he grabbed the loose ball and saw Huffman too far off first, he threw him out.
Despite the mishap, the damage was done. Wassermann rebounded from his first struggles of the season and closed the door.
"They found a way," Bombard said. "Lance was outstanding tonight, kept us right in the game. Josh had a big offensive night ... we got two extra in the ninth inning."
"Just keeping the ball down," Broadway explained about his early success. "I had three walks tonight that I'm a little frustrated about, but as far as the fastball goes, it's been down, which gives my defense a chance to make plays, and they've been doing that."
David Cloninger • 909-4218