Charlotte’s Todd Elwood high chops a ground ball to second base in the ninth inning, driving in the first run of the game for the 49ers.
The Charlotte 49ers scored twice in the top of the ninth inning Thursday night to defeat light-hitting UTSA, 2-0, winning the first game of a three-game series and registering their fourth straight victory in Conference USA.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jonah Patten closed for his ninth save of the year, giving the 49ers a win at Roadrunner Field to open a series that will complete the regular season for both teams.
The series continues with Game 2 on Friday at 6 p.m. Game 3 is set for Saturday at 10 a.m.
Charlotte and UTSA both will advance to the C-USA postseason tournament, set for next week in Biloxi, Mississippi. Right now, it appears that the 49ers might have a decent chance to make a run at the title.
With the victory over UTSA, the 49ers showcased some dominant pitching to extend a streak of success that includes 10 victories in their last 12 games.
UTSA coach Jason Marshall lamented a ninth-inning rally fueled by a few fortuitous bounces for Charlotte.
“The (ground) ball ricocheted off of (UTSA pitcher) Derek Craft to get that thing going, and then they dump that single into right center,” Marshall said. “It’s what I told our guys, it was just the way it was flowing.
“It was going to boil down to a big hit, somebody in scoring position and somebody delivering the big blow, the knockout.”
Charlotte 31-20, 17-11
UTSA 29-22, 14-13
The Charlotte pitching trio of Josh Maciejewski, Chase Gooding and Patten limited UTSA to just three hits — all of them singles.
UTSA pushed runners to second base in the first and sixth innings and put another one at third base in the seventh.
But each opportunity fizzled, leaving them to think about their second shutout loss in their last four games.
“You never know at what part of the game you can deliver that blow,” Marshall said. “We had a chance in the first inning. We really didn’t give ourselves a lot more chances (afterward).
“There were only a few other chances where we got a runner to second or third. Their starter (Maciejewski) has great numbers, Then the guy they brought out of the pen even threw better than the starter.”
Not everything went wrong for the Roadrunners.
UTSA pitched and played defense extremely well. The Roadrunners very nearly matched Charlotte in stringing all zeroes across the scoreboard.
But in the ninth, the 49ers had a few bounces go their way to tack on the only two runs they would need.
With one out, Craft got a hand on a chopper hit by Drew Ober, only to have it carom past shortstop Joshua Lamb for a base hit.
Ober promptly took advantage of the break, speeding from first to third on a single by Dominick Cammarata.
With runners at first and third and still one out, Craft worked a 1-2 count to Todd Elwood.
At that point, Marshall elected to go to the bullpen to bring in lefty Jordan Rodriguez to finish off Elwood, a left-handed hitter.
After working the count to 3-2, Elwood chopped a ball that bounced just high enough to get over Rodriguez and just slow enough to allow Ober to score from third.
Even though Elwood was thrown out at first, pinch runner Jake Whitcomb took second, leaving another runner in scoring position.
Tommy Bullock answered with an RBI single to center off reliever Andre Shewcraft, making it 2-0.