Members of the team look on at a play. Photo by Chris Crews

Charlotte softball has overcome a dismal 1-3 start with a seven-game win streak, capped off with a clean 5-0 sweep in the First Pitch Classic.

The team has bounced back after opening their 2017 campaign down at the Carolina Classic in South Carolina by going 1-3. The 49ers came back to the Queen City and took two games in a double header against Gardner-Webb.

To round off the first 11 games of the season, Charlotte went on a 5-0 to become the champions of the First Pitch Classic.

Young but experienced

One of the headlines from the softball team this season are the seniors, or lack there of, on the team. Last year Charlotte lost two players from graduation, pitcher Lexi Betancourt and outfielder Courtney Carroll. This season the 49ers welcomed pitchers Alison Green and Carson Pace as well as utility player Spenser Gray. The roster breaks down to five juniors, eight sophomores and three freshmen.

While the team is young, there is maturity on the roster.

Haley Pace, Emma Ocker and Bailey Rhoney held the top three batting averages at the conclusion of the 2016 season and all three are returning this season. Defensively, Becca Shipper, Meredith Harris and Taylar Byrne lead the way with fielding percentages above .975 last season.

In the circle

Last season, Betancourt was the team’s number one pitcher. She has been replaced this season by Haley Wiseman, a junior out of Winter Haven, Florida. After starting seven of the team’s 11 games, Wiseman has an earned run average of 1.43. Through her 49 innings pitched she has allowed only 10 earned runs off of 29 hits and 21 walks. She leads Conference USA in strikeouts, recording 63 K’s so far.

Sophomore Lauren Riley is able to perform when it’s her time in the circle. The stamina of the High Springs, Florida native is one of her main strengths. Against Ohio Riley was delivering pitches through six innings and lasting seven innings in the 49ers contest against St. Bonaventure.

Stepping up to the plate

A huge threat from the 49ers is strong batting lineup from top to bottom. After Sunday’s matchup against Bowling Green six players are hitting at or above .294. The team as a whole holds a .305 average.

Pace is leading the way with a .424 average. The junior has tallied three home runs, two triples and one double through her first 33 at-bats while only registering five strikeouts. Coming in behind Pace is Ocker with a .389 batting average. Ocker is tied with Pace by having two triples.

Rounding out the top three in the batting average category is Grace Beatty who possesses a .375 average. Beatty is responsible for two of the 49ers’ six home runs in their first 11 games. The other homer came from red shirt sophomore Erin Powers.

Another area the Charlotte squad excels in is on-base percentage. The team averages a .371 on-base percentage, collecting 126 total bases. Four Niners hold an on-base percentage at or above .400. Once on base, watch for aggressive base running from the Niners. So far the team has registered 22 stolen bases, led by Pace with seven stolen bases off of eight attempts. Freshman Spenser Gray with six stolen bases from seven attempts.

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.