I knew I was going to need a break today from grading final exams and papers, so earlier this week I made arrangements for a media pass to the Charlotte 49ers’ home baseball game with Temple.
I haven’t seen a live college baseball game during this particularly hectic spring, so it was a pleasure to get out and take in a game that was interesting though one-sided, a 23-0 rout for the 49ers over the visitors.
Yes, 23-0. I know it was baseball, because the 49ers don’t play football yet.
The game was the second in a three-game weekend Atlantic 10 conference series, and Charlotte and Temple are a pairing that’s a mismatch at first glance. The 49ers,who after today’s win have six straight seasons of 30 or more wins, are on top of the A-10 standings (13-4 record) and Temple’s near the bottom (8-30 overall, 5-12 conference). But the Owls had taken an 8-4 victory in Friday night’s opener – further proof that baseball is beautifully unpredictable from day to day.
Today’s game put each team back in its place. From a competitive standpoint, it was over after the 49ers scored seven runs in the first inning and added 11 more in the third. Charlotte pounded out 23 hits, led by outfielder and leadoff hitter Cory Tilton.
By the third inning the junior from Cary was 3-for-4 at the plate and needed only a triple to hit for the cycle. He didn’t get it, but finished 4-for-6 with a pair of home runs, a double and 7 RBI. At the other end of the batting order, shortstop Justin Roland was equally impressive, 3-for-5 with 6 RBI and his first home run of the season.
By contrast, the Owls were fortunate just to avoid serious injury. Shortstop Adrian Perez and second baseman Foster Dunigan collided in the third inning while converging at full speed on a ground ball up the middle. Both went flying and eventually got up, but were removed from the game. In the next inning, relief pitcher Mike Click was hit in the left leg by a vicious line drive, but stayed in the game.
Temple starting pitcher Matt Mongiardini was only beaten up figuratively, allowing seven runs in just 1/3 of an inning, doing further damage to an earned run average that was at 9.82 going in. He fell to 0-9 on the season. (I have a theory about statistics like that which seems counterintuitive – he must be a pitcher with some talent or the coach would have stopped putting him out there way before now.)
As the game wore on, someone in the press box joked about “rollover runs” – the old baseball saw about saving some for the next game when you’re winning big. The 49ers, ranked No. 8 in Division I in runs scored, got their first shutout of the season on the same afternoon when they rang up their third highest run total. (They’ve also put up 26 and 24 runs in a game this season.)
Starting pitcher Tyler Pilkington, a sophomore from nearby Weddington High, was impressive, allowing only five hits in eight innings, while striking out six. He’s one of a significant number of players the 49ers have recruited from the Charlotte region, giving the team a strong hometown flavor.
A random note which explains the title of this post: one of the things I like about college baseball is the up-close-and-personal nature of fan interaction with players and umpires. Seems like every school has its own — in the phrase of long-time major league broadcaster Milo Hamilton –“leather-lunged fan” who’s an unmistakable presence. For Charlotte, it’s the “Uh-huh” guy.
I don’t know whether he’s a student or booster, but he apparently has quite a following. He makes running commentary on the game, exhorting 49ers players and heckling opposing players – it’s all good-natured clean fun – and punctuating each comment with an “uh-huh” at the end. As in, “Come on number 15, get a hit for us, uh-huh.”
This sometimes gets a chorus of “uh-huh” responses and some folks even bring signs with “Uh-huh” printed on them to hold up at the appropriate time. I think I might find all of this a little wearing over the course of a full season, and on this afternoon things eventually quieted down as the 49ers took control of the game early.
But as long as it isn’t abusive and it gets fans into the game, who am I to argue with it? Can I get an “uh-huh”?