Charlotte Knights

Knights are closing in on a title. Oddly, their rivals are alike in another way, too.

There are just four Charlotte Knights games remaining at uptown’s BB&T BallPark this season.
There are just four Charlotte Knights games remaining at uptown’s BB&T BallPark this season. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Barring a major turnstile development early this week, the U.S. minor-league baseball attendance title is returning to Charlotte.

The Knights, who have won that crown three of four years since moving into BB&T Ballpark in uptown Charlotte, have the edge over the Round Rock Express. Both Charlotte and Round Rock, an Austin, Texas, suburb, have home games Monday through Thursday and then finish their seasons on the road.

Fans of the Express, the Pacific Coast League Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, might argue for the title – because Round Rock likely will draw more fans than Charlotte this season. But the Express also will have one more home date.

Through Saturday (both teams were home Sunday evening), the Knights were averaging 8,944 fans in their 64 home dates. The Express was averaging 8,900 in 65 dates.

If trends continue, Round Rock will draw a bit more than 620,000 fans – or about 8,000 more than Charlotte.

But to have the highest average attendance, the Express will have to draw nearly 3,000 more fans in the remaining home dates than the Knights.

Knights’ media director Tommy Viola said Sunday there is no clear-cut way of determining the attendance champion but that typically it has been based on average per game. That method also has been used by organizations such as Ballpark Digest and Forbes magazines in recent articles.

Something to note – both Charlotte and Round Rock are in last place in their divisions, showing that on-field performance is not the key factor in drawing fans in the minors.

The Knights led the U.S. minors in 2014 through 2016 but were surpassed last season by Indianapolis, a fellow member of the International League.

Indianapolis is third this season, with its 8,661 average attendance barely ahead of Pacific Coast League member Nashville (8,653). Fifth, at 8,593, is Columbus of the International League.

On the field, here’s how the Knights fared during the past week – and a look at what’s ahead:

Last Sunday: Pitcher Asher Wojciechowski allowed just one run and struck out nine in seven innings, but the Knights fell 3-1 to Louisville.

Tuesday: The Knights gave up 10 runs in the sixth inning and lost 15-3 at Norfolk, in the completion of a game that had been started earlier this month in Charlotte but suspended by rain. Matt Skole homered for the Knights. In the nightcap, the Knights beat the Tides 3-2, with Ryan Cordell slamming a two-run homer.

Wednesday: Charlotte swept a doubleheader in Norfolk, winning 5-2 and 3-0. Starter Spencer Adams got the victory in the opener, going six innings and allowing four hits. Eloy Jimenez, Cordell and Wellington Castillo each had three hits. In the nightcap, the Knights scored three times in the first inning and got shutout work from three pitchers.

Thursday: Charlotte lost 9-8 to Norfolk, but Jimenez got four hits and lifted his batting average to .360.

Saturday: The Knights were swept in a doubleheader by Gwinnett, falling 11-5 and 7-4. Patrick Leonard had two hits in the opener, and he and Trayce Thompson homered in the nightcap.

Week ahead: The Knights are home at 7:04 p.m. Monday against Gwinnett, then host Durham at 7:04 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Then Charlotte hits the road for a season-ending four-game series at Gwinnett, Friday through Labor Day.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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