CHARLOTTE — Former South Meck baseball star Colby Bruce made history March 21.
Bruce pitched 2 1/3 innings of solid relief and Charlotte broke open a close game with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning as the 49ers stunned No. 4 ranked Arkansas 6-3 in Hayes Stadium at UNC Charlotte.
The victory is the highest-ranked home win in program history and the second-highest overall. The 49ers snapped the Razorbacks’ six-game winning streak, which included an SEC sweep of then No. 4 ranked Kentucky last weekend.
“Our guys went out there and executed,” said Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs, who is in his 26th season at the school. “I’m very proud of the effort. Arkansas has pros all over the field and every arm they run out there is about the same, 90s to mid-90s with a breaking ball. We beat a great team tonight.’’
And Bruce played a big role.
Bruce allowed just two hits and one run against a Razorbacks’ offense that entered the game averaging almost 10 runs a game. Bruce (2-0) struck out two in picking up the victory. Bruce was one of five pitchers that faced the Razorbacks.
“Arkansas is so balanced that you have to keep them off balance, and we did that,” Hibbs said. “We were able to mix and match out of the bullpen. Bruce was the guy and when he got hot we decided to stick with him. Most of our bullpen was really good.”
But Bruce isn’t the only local player in southern Mecklenburg or western Union counties playing for Charlotte as the 49ers roster is dotted with local players, including six from south Charlotte high schools, three from high schools in Union County and one player from Butler High in Matthews. Six of the local players are position players while four are pitchers.
Red-shirt junior and South Meck graduate Harris Yett entered Wednesday’s game against the Razorbacks leading Conference USA with a .419 batting average. Yett has six doubles, which ties for fourth best in the conference, three home runs and 19 RBIs. Yett is fourth in the league in on-base percentage and he has scored 20 runs.
Yett started 46 of 52 games a year ago and he batted .303 over the last half of the 2017, including .333 in his final five games of the season. Yett had a single against the Razorbacks to extend his hitting streak to five games.
Junior outfielder Reece Hampton, a product of Charlotte Christian, is eighth in batting in the league with a .369 average. Hampton, who started all of the 49ers first 19 games, has four doubles and 15 RBIs. Hampton also had a single against the Hogs to extend his hitting streak to six games.
Todd Elwood, a graduate of Piedmont High in Indian Trail, is batting .423 after 29 at-bats before the Arkansas game. He started eight of the 49ers’ first 19 games while appearing in 16 games.
Freshman infielder Tate Pennington (Butler) has started 14 of the 15 games he has appeared in and he is batting .302 with three doubles and nine RBIs. Senior infielder Hunter Jones has started the first 20 games of the year and the Piedmont graduate is batting .221 with three doubles, one home run and 17 RBIs. Freshman Sam Mennitt (Cuthbertson High) has appeared in three games and is 0-for-2 at the plate.
Bruce has now appeared in 10 games, drawing one start. Bruce has 12 strikeouts and four walks in 15 2/3 innings of work. Senior right-handed pitcher Austin Wynn (South Meck) has appeared in one game and has two strikeouts in 1.1 innings of work.
Freshman left-handed pitchers Eli Ellington (Covenant Day School) and Connor Rudy (Ardrey Kell) have not seen action yet this season.
Charlotte pitching coach Shohn Doty said recruiting the Charlotte metro area is a top priority. Doty is in his second year with the 49ers and said the win over Arkansas and last week’s win over Wake Forest will only help recruiting. Charlotte goes to Arkansas for two games next season.
Charlotte has also played then No. 19 ranked East Carolina and Georgia this year in three-game series’ and they play North Carolina next week at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte.
“You have to recruit locally and get the best players,” Doty said. “We are trying to show kids that we are playing a top 10 schedule.”