May 24, 2007
DAYTON, OH - Senior righthander Adam Mills won his school-record 13th game of the season and designated hitter Chris Taylor broke open the game in the sixth with a three-run homer as top-seeded Charlotte downed No. 5 Rhode Island on Thursday afternoon, 11-1, at the 2007 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship at Fifth Third Field.
The 49ers, who won their program-best 45th contest of the year, will face the winner of the Fordham-Richmond contest at 12:00pm on Friday. URI (23-29) will face No. 4 Xavier (28-30) at 7:00pm on Thursday in an elimination game for both teams.
Mills, the 2007 A-10 Pitcher of the Year, improved to 13-2 on the year after allowing five hits and fanning four over eight innings. He eclipsed the previous Charlotte single-season record of 12 wins, set in 2001 by current New York Mets righthander John Maine.
"It's a record that means a lot to me and I had the pleasure to meet John [Maine] so it's someone for me to look up to," said Mills, one of ten candidates for the Roger Clemens Award and a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, presented to the top collegiate player.
"Today was one of those days that I didn't have my hard fastball but I had movement on my pitches so I tried to eliminate mistakes and make them hit my pitches. Being able to pitch and not worrying about striking guys out and having your defense pick you up takes all the pressure out of the game.
Rhode Island took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth as designated hitter drew a lead-off walk, advanced to third on a double by senior Ryan Cunningham and scored on a groundout by catcher Zach Zaneski. Held to just two hits through the first five innings by URI starter James Norcott (5-8), Charlotte strung together back-to-back infield singles by Aaron Bray and Cory Lane with one out in the sixth. After tying the score at 1-1 on the second of three Rhody errors in the inning, Taylor stepped to the plate with two outs and sent a 3-2 pitch over the seats in left to push the 49ers lead to 4-1.
"When the count went to 3-2, I sat on a breaking ball and put a good swing on it when I got it," said Taylor, who raised his total to six homers on the year.
"We try to stay with our approach and never panic and the outcome usually comes out in our favor."
The 49ers would erupt for seven runs on seven hits in the bottom of the seventh, which included a two-run double by Taylor and a two-run single by leftfielder Brad McElroy. Taylor finished 2-for-4 with five RBI on the afternoon, one of four Charlotte players to collect two hits in the game. All nine starters recorded at least one hit for the 49ers, whose 11 runs were all unearned.
"We like to have the bye but we would rather play this time of year. Our practices lately have not been crisp and we struggled early on," said Charlotte head coach Loren Hibbs, the 2007 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.
"[Jim] Norcott is a senior and has pitched big games and he really was tough early on. We're not a real physical team but we have a bunch of athletic guys who can runaround and we try to create havoc and speed-up the game on people."
Norcott yielded nine runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings and struck out five. Third basemen Shaun Hagey had two of the Rams five hits on the afternoon.
For complete coverage of the 2007 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship, log on to www.atlantic10.org