The Charlotte 49ers kicked off their hardest schedule in program history with a series win over Big 12’s West Virginia, winning the first two games of the series 6-3 and 13-2, before falling to the Mountaineers 3-6 on Sunday. All three games at the Hayes were sold-out, totaling over 4,100 fans that made their way to watch the Niners and head coach Loren Hibbs in his 25th season with the program.
The 49ers handed Colton Laws the key to the ship Friday night on Opening Day, throwing 6.0 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out four batters on 83 pitches. The 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher for the Niners received some support at the plate during his outing, started by the hot-hitting Jackson Mims and T.J. Nichting.
Nichting, one of the 10 seniors on the team, singled in the second and fourth innings, followed by a double in both innings from the ECU transfer Mims, scoring Nichting for both of Charlotte’s early runs.
With Brandon Vogler on the mound for Charlotte in the seventh, WVU scored one run on four hits, regaining the 3-2 lead. So down by one in the seventh, the 49ers leaned on Nichting who led off the inning with a double to right-center, followed by a single from Mims, his third hit of the day. After a single from senior Zach Jarrett, Hunter Jones scored Nichting from third. Later in the inning, Brett Netzer lined a ball over the second baseman’s head to score two more Charlotte runs, leading 6-3 over WVU.
Hard throwing Jonah Patton closed the game for Charlotte with a near-perfect ninth inning, securing the Opening Day win in front of 1,135 fans.
Charlotte went with junior Josh Maciejewski in game two, as he showed his maturity on the mound through 5.2 innings, working around five walks, while giving up just three hits. But the highlight of the night came on the offensive end for the Niners, stringing together 15 hits for 13 runs.
Mims continued to impress all 1,584 fans inside Hayes Stadium on Saturday, scoring in the second inning off of a sacrifice-fly from Jarrett and hitting his first home run as a Niner while leading off the fourth inning. Charlotte scored two more runs in the fourth, leading 4-2 after four.
After taking an inning off, the 49ers made up for it, scoring four runs in the sixth inning, sending all nine guys in the lineup to the plate in the inning. The inning was highlighted by singles from Nichting and Drew Ober, and capped off with a two-run bomb from senior Logan Sherer to deep left field, giving the home team an 8-1 lead.
The Mountaineers tagged on another run in the top of the seventh but Charlotte responded with a five-run inning. Over reached on a walk and Jones reached on a single, followed by a two-run double from Netzer. Sheer singled in Netzer just a couple pitches later. Nichting capped off the fireworks in the seventh with a solo-shot that bounced off the foul pole down the right field line.
West Virginia’s Connor Dotson and Charlotte’s Zach Flanagan battled on the mound through four innings in the series finale, as Flanagan worked around seven hits to only give up one run. Totaling 12 hits on the day, the 49ers were unable to get the big hit they needed to bring runners in, leaving 11 runners on base.
Charlotte got on the board in the seventh after Reece Hampton singled to score Ober, but not before WVU put up four runs. The Mountaineers scored two insurance runs in the eighth, helping them seal the deal over the Niners.
Although Charlotte scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth off of a single from Sherer and a sac fly from Nichting, the 49ers comeback fell short, losing 3-6.