Trailing by a single run with a runner in scoring position, UC second basemen Mark Muscenti's sharply hit ball found the leather of Charlotte right fielder John Stallings' glove instead of the outfield grass he needed.
UC had trailed by as many as four runs in the contest (5-2 in the fourth), but managed to hold the opposition to a single run over the final five innings of the game.
With the loss the Bearcats drop to the tenth in the Conference USA standings below the 49ers to, who with their 0-2 start to this weekend's series fell behind UC by percentage points in the standings. The Bearcats are now 15-17 on the season (5-9 in C-USA). Charlotte improves to 21-14 on the season (6-9 in C-USA)/
"Overall, I thought we played really well this weekend," said Bearcat manager Brain Cleary. "The more games you play the more comfortable you become and I think with our pitching performing as well as they have and our defense playing so well, we are able to stay in a lot of games late. If you find yourself in a game in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings you are going to give yourself a chance to win."
Prior to Sunday's disheartening effort, the Bearcats had won their previous five outings, including a pair of victories over Saint Louis and Charlotte and a win over crosstown-rival Xavier. The pair of multiple win series for the Bearcats gave the program its first two conference series victories on the season. Before the recent stretch of success UC had struggled to a 10-16 record overall, and had managed only one victory in their first nine C-USA games.
During the recent stretch the stellar play of leadoff man LaFringe Hayes has been duly noted. Going 4-for-5 in today's action, including a double, three RBIs and a run scored, Hayes continues to show the importance of his role on this team. Not surprisingly, the five-game winning streak the Bearcats had endured perfectly coincided with Hayes' return to the lineup from a shoulder injury suffered March 25.
"LaFringe is our top hitter and losing having him in or out of the lineup is obviously going to have an impact on our success as a team," remarked Cleary about his speedy table-setter. "If you add to that the type of hitter he is, being that he adds so much pressure at the plate with his speed and is always a threat to run because he is on base so much, it just makes him that much more important to our team,"
The UC squad got behind early as starting pitcher Kevin Shrader struggled to get command of his pitches or the game, as he allowed three first inning runs despite only allowing one hit.
After a groundout by Charlotte cleanup hitter Adam Willard plated a run and a Spencer Steedly sacrifice fly plated another, Chris Taylor's single on a 2-0 fastball gave them the commanding 3-run lead to open the contest.
The Bearcats got into this mess by hitting Charlotte's leadoff hitter on the first pitch of the contest, and then proceeded to walk the next two 49er batters on eight consecutive balls to start the game.
"That puts you behind the eight-ball right away, having the start we did, and no question it's difficult to get back in the game," said the UC skipper who is reluctant to blame the poor start alone on the lose. "We had opportunities to get back in the game after that, we just didn't take advantage of opportunities when they were there."
The Bearcats stranded 11 runners on base to Charlotte's six missed scoring opportunities.