UPTOWN CHARLOTTE, NC) - Despite an early deficit, the Charlotte Knights quickly came back to defeat the Louisville Bats 5-2 on Thursday night in the opener of their four-game series at BB&T Ballpark.
Charlotte starter Justin Nicolino got off to a shaky start as Alex Blandino homered to lead off the game and three straight singles loaded the bases with nobody out. But Nicolino rebounded to strike out Rob Refsnyder and induce a ground ball double play from Nick Longhi to limit the damage to one run in the opening frame.
Blandino homered again to double the Louisville lead in the top of the third, but that would be all the Bats' offense could muster.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, the Knights rallied to tie the game. Alcides Escobar and Zack Collins started the comeback with back-to-back singles. Danny Mendick got Charlotte on the board with a shallow single to center. Mendick then stole second, but the throw went into center field, allowing Collins to score the tying run.
Another two-out outburst proved decisive for Charlotte in the sixth. Alcides Escobar gave the Knights the lead with a 410-foot solo shot to dead center, his sixth home run of the season. Collins followed with a towering 444-foot solo shot out of BB&T Ballpark and onto Mint Street for his ninth home run of the season to give the Knights a 4-2 lead after six.
Nicolino (W, 4-1) returned to the mound with the lead in the seventh and retired the Bats in order to finish the win. Over 7.0 innings, he limited the Bats to two earned runs on nine hits with one walk and five strikeouts to earn his third straight win.
Daniel Palka added an insurance run with a 431-foot solo shot to left-center, his 13th home run of the season, in the bottom of the eighth, capping the night's scoring.
In relief, Connor Walsh (S, 3) retired all six hitters he faced to finish the win and earn the save for Charlotte.
Escobar, Collins, and Mendick each recorded two hits for the Knights in their third straight win. All five of Charlotte's runs came with two outs.
Charlotte and Louisville continue their series on Friday night. Ross Detwiler (1-2, 3.91) is set to start for Charlotte. Pre-game radio coverage of the 7:04 p.m. game is set for 6:50 p.m. on 730 The Game ESPN Charlotte. The "Voice of the Charlotte Knights" Matt Swierad and long-time Knights radio broadcaster Mike Pacheco will have the call for all of the action.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.