The Charlotte Knights were eliminated from title contention long ago, but they are part of a very close race for the highest attendance in minor league baseball.
That’s a title Charlotte has won annually since moving to BB&T Ballpark in 2014, but the Knights’ No. 1 position is in jeopardy this year.
Indianapolis drew 11,895 fans for its home finale Sunday and finished the season with an average of 9,159 fans for 70 dates. The Knights are averaging 9,120 fans, but their final eight games of the season are at home, beginning Monday night.
Also in the race is Columbus, which is averaging 9,090 and plays its final eight games at home.
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To win the attendance title for a fourth straight year, the Knights must average 9,538 fans in each of their final home games. Columbus must average 10,934 a game to pass Indianapolis and Charlotte.
The Knights averaged 9,686 in 2014; 9,428 in 2015; and 8,974 last season.
The three International League teams are well ahead of the top-drawing Pacific Coast League franchises. The Round Rock Express (a suburb of Austin) lead the PCL with 8,637; and Sacramento is second with 8,587.
Here’s how the Knights fared on the field during the past week:
Monday: Starting pitcher Michael Kopech, 21, just called up from Class AA, won his Triple-A debut as the Knights beat Norfolk 4-2.
Tuesday: Charlotte won its fifth straight, beating Norfolk 8-7. Danny Hayes, the team’s leader in home runs and RBI, hit a two-run single in a six-run Knights’ fifth inning.
Thursday: The Knights’ winning streak ended with a doubleheader loss. Tyler Danish allowed only three hits in a complete-game performance, but he was the losing pitcher in a 2-0 decision to Norfolk. The Tides won the nightcap 5-3, but Charlotte’s Casey Gillaspie hit his 13th home run of the season.
Friday: It was another doubleheader sweep, with the Knights dropping two to Gwinnett. The Braves won the opener 6-3, beating Knights pitcher Carson Fulmer, who just returned from the Chicago White Sox. The Knights dropped the nightcap 7-4, despite Jake Peter’s seventh homer of the season.
Saturday: Charlotte won 3-1 over Gwinnett, as Kopech threw five more strong innings. Brian Clark (6-1) got the win in relief.
Sunday: The Knights won 12-5 over Gwinnett, with Gillaspie collecting a single and two doubles.
Next up: The Knights entertain Durham at 7:05 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 12:05 p.m. Thursday. Then Norfolk comes to town for a Labor Day weekend series.