Winthrop baseball players should be forgiven if they got caught gazing at the BB&T Ballpark scenery Tuesday night in downtown Charlotte.
The Queen City’s skyline certainly offered more visuals to drink in than the giant black wall that shields hitters from the setting sun at Winthrop Ballpark in Rock Hill.
Coming off a crucial weekend sweep of Big South foe Liberty, Winthrop came to downtown Charlotte looking to continue its mid-season momentum-construction project; the half-finished apartment towers and scattered cranes thus provided the perfect backdrop.
But the result of Tuesday night’s game didn’t follow that story thread. Charlotte (13-16) sprayed 14 hits around the Charlotte Knights’ home patch, while 49er arms limited the Eagles - technically the home team - to just seven hits in a 7-1 Charlotte win.
“We’ve just got to be consistent,” said Winthrop (16-13) coach Tom Riginos, after giving his team a lengthy speech in right field. “I thought we played our best baseball of the year this past weekend; tonight was not our best effort.”
Charlotte entered the game having lost seven of its last eight; Winthrop had won five consecutive contests. The divergent streaks didn’t matter Tuesday night in Charlotte’s third game this season at BB&T Ballpark.
The 49ers scored once in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings, before three runs in the sixth put some distance between the two teams. Winthrop’s first two pitchers - starter Riley Arnone and reliever Reece Green - both allowed two runs on five hits.
As much as Charlotte batters succeeded in roughing up Winthrop pitchers, the 49ers’ hurlers kept Eagles off the basepaths, especially starter Philip Perry. The ECU transfer allowed just a pair of hits in 4.2 stingy innings.
Charlotte led 3-0 when Winthrop loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, scoring once to cut into the lead. But The 49ers grew their lead to five runs in the following frame. Freddie Sultan replaced Green on the mound for Winthrop, but allowed a two-out home run to Drew Ober. He smashed a pitch into the left field seats, and Charlotte first baseman Logan Sherer followed with another dinger several pitches later to push the 49ers’ lead to 6-1.
Winthrop loaded the bases again in the bottom of the seventh, but Austin Wynn duped Eagles’ designated hitter Tyler Asbill into a inning-concluding double play to squelch the threat.
Perry - who pitched in Charlotte’s game against N.C. State at BB&T Ballpark last Tuesday - stymied Winthrop’s batting order. The Eagles had to wait until the bottom of the fourth to get their first hit and it took until the fifth to get two baserunners on at the same time.
The Eagles fell to 0-10 this season when scoring less than six runs.
“We have an older team,” said Riginos. “These guys know how to prepare themselves and I just think mentally, we weren’t locked in. We haven’t had too many of these games this year.”
Sherer led Charlotte’s offensive assault with a pair of home runs, bashing a ball into the left field seats in the top of the sixth, then sticking one beyond the wall in right field in the top of the eighth. Sherer was 3-for-4 with three RBI and a walk. Charlotte’s amply-bearded catcher Derek Fritz also had a productive outing with his bat, going 2-for-4 with a double.
Anthony Paulsen and Mark Lowrie both had a pair of hits for Winthrop.
Charlotte travels to Raleigh Wednesday to play N.C. State. Winthrop will try to continue its surge in the Big South standings this weekend with a three-game series against Presbyterian down in Clinton.
“That’s what we talked about,” said Riginos. “We talked about just flushing it and going to the next day. That’s one good thing with baseball, you play every day.”
WP: N. Traugh (1-0). LP: R. Arnone (2-2). S: Wynn (1). Leading hitters: CLT: Sherer HR, 3 RBI, Ober HR, 2 RBI; WU: Lowrie 3-4, Paulsen 2-4