CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Saint Louis defeated the Charlotte 49ers in the first game of the Atlantic 10 Championship, 4-3. Junior Clay Smith gets his eighth win of the year. Matt Eckelman gets the save, his fourth of the year.
Saint Louis hit the ball very well in the contest. The Bills collected 16 hits, making the fourth consecutive game in which SLU has had 10 or more hits. Saint Louis has had 36 such games this season.
The Billikens first got on the board in the second, when Alec Solé hit a single to right, scoring Danny Brennan from second. They added to their lead in the fifth on a solo shot to left from Mike Vigliarolo.
In the sixth, SLU had a big inning. The first three Billikens reached base safely to load the bases with no outs. Alex Kelly hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score Solé from third. Later in the frame, SLU re-loaded the bases with two outs, and Brennan hit a single up the middle, scoring Grant Nelson and Michael Bozarth to give SLU a 5-0 lead through six.
Fireworks in the seventh as Charlotte hit a three-run blast to cut the score to 5-3. Later in the inning, the Niners had a runner at first and a double was hit down the left field line, but the Charlotte runner was caught trying to stretch to a triple, Bozarth’s 12 outfield assist of the season. However, the runner scored and brought the game to 5-4 SLU.
In the eighth, with runners at first and second, Brenna hit a grounder through the right side. Vigliarolo rounded third and headed home, but was caught at the plate to keep the score 5-4.
Clay Smith returned to the hill in the ninth, but allowed a leadoff single. He was pulled in favor of Jon Levin. The Charlotte hitter laid down a bunt, but Levin fielded it cleanly to get the lead runner at second for the first out. He made way for Matt Eckelman, who got a pop up to second against his first batter. The next batter flew out to left to seal the 5-4 win for Saint Louis.
The Billikens and Niners will play in a winner-take-all final game to determine the Atlantic 10 Tournament Champion and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.