Tempe Regional: Charlotte 3, Arkansas 2

June, 3, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dominant work from pitcher Andrew Smith wasn't surprising for third-seeded Charlotte in its 3-2 victory over No. 2 Arkansas in the first game of the Tempe Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament. Smith is the ace of a staff that ranked third in the nation in ERA this season.

And it wasn't surprising that the 49ers, the Atlantic 10 champions, prevailed in a tight game against a "BCS" conference foe. Twenty-two of their games have been decided by two or fewer runs, and along the way they've beaten Wake Forest and North Carolina as well as winning three of four against Missouri.

No, the surprise was how Charlotte notched its most critical blow: a two-run home run from designated hitter Corbin Shive in the second inning. It was the sophomore's first home run of the season. Beyond that, the 49ers had only hit 18 homers as a team this season. Ten individual players hit 18 or more dingers this season.

"[Arkansas pitcher Randall Fant] left a ball up and in to me," Shive said. "It kind of surprised me."

Shive, by the way, is a part-time player, who's started just 12 games.

"Corbin? I'm stupid," Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said with a Cheshire cat grin. "We haven't given him nearly enough at-bats."

Charlotte, now 43-14, advances to play the winner of the Arizona State-New Mexico game Saturday at 10 p.m. (ET).

The 49ers picked up another run -- unearned -- in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Then Smith (10-4), who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, took over, keeping the Razorbacks off-balance with fast balls away and changeups.

"We tried to umpire too much instead of swinging," said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn, whose team fell to 38-21.

Smith allowed one run and five hits in 7.1 innings, with four strikeouts and one walk. Corey Roberts finished things up, though he surrendered a solo home run to Kyle Robinson in the bottom of the ninth.

While Smith baffled the Razorbacks, Fant (3-5) only lasted two innings. Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin didn't yield any more damage, but the offense couldn't get in sync.

"Offense has been our problem all year," said a grumpy Van Horn, who didn't take kindly to a reporter asking him if he regretted going with Fant instead of staff ace D.J. Baxendale (9-2, 1.75).

Baxendale will get the call Saturday (5 p.m. ET) against the loser of the ASU-New Mexico game, with no more margin for error in the double-elimination tournament.

Ted Miller | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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