Baseball season is finally upon us. The 49ers baseball team kicked off the 2019 season with their first practice this past Friday afternoon. With opening day only three weeks away, the team is preparing to welcome Delaware to Hayes Stadium on Feb. 15 for a three-game home stand before traveling to Clemson for their first of two meetings of the year.
“Here we go!” head coach Loren Hibbs said. “We like our guys, we like the ability of what we can do. We have more depth than what we’ve had in the last couple of years… now we have to develop them. We’re excited to play.”
This year’s roster features a plethora of returning players from the 2018 season while also welcoming a few newcomers to the squad:
1- Jake Whitcomb, OF/INF, So.
2- Carson Johsnon, INF, Jr.
3- Eric Lansinger, OF, So.
6- Josh Haney, INF, Fr.
8- Harris Yett, C/INF, R-Sr.
9- Tommy Bullock, INF, Sr.
10- Tate Pennington, INF, So.
11- Patrick Wheeler, Of, Jr.
12- Riley Cheek, INF/OF, Fr.
13- Mason Herbert, RHP, Fr.
16- Jesse Gonzales, INF, Sr.
17- Todd Elwood, OF, Jr.
18- Drew Ober, OF, Fr.
19- Bryce McGowan, RHP, Fr.
20- Carter Foster, C, Fr.
21- Colby Bruce, RHP, Jr.
24- Dominick Cammarata, INF/OF, R-Sr.
25- Patrick Szczypinski, RHP, So.
26-Joey Cooner, LHP, Sr.
28- Justin Offschanka, RHP, Fr.
29- Alec Roberts, OF, Fr.
32- Carson Pinkney, RHP, R-Sr.
33- Ethan Earhart, LHP, Jr.
34- Ryan Czanstkowski, RHP, Jr.
35- Will Palinkas, RHP, Fr.
36- Rafi Vazquez, INF, Jr.
39- Spencer Ard, LHP, Jr.
40- Chase Gooding, RHP, Sr.
41- Matt Brooks, RHP, Jr.
42- Eli Ellington, LHP, R-Fr.
44- Jacob Whitley, C, R-So.
45- Austin Lynch, OF, Jr.
Coming off a season in which the Niners posted a staggering 22-9 home record and finished third in the conference with a 34-24 record, the Niners look again to prove the doubters wrong after being predicted to finish sixth in the conference for the third consecutive year.
“I think we’ve proven that we don’t deserve to be put in sixth, so we’d definitely like to prove some people wrong with that,” said junior pitcher Matt Brooks. “It’s where we finish in the end is all that matters, though.”
In the last two seasons, the Niners have come just one game shy of the C-USA championship game. This season, they hope to have a different outcome. Charlotte will look towards some of their returning players such as Brooks, Harris Yett, Joey Connor, Tommy Bullock and Dominick Cammarata to help guide newcomers Rafi Vasquez, Patrick Wheeler and Carson Johnson to the team’s ultimate goal of a conference championship.
“It’s really exciting that it’s finally here. We’ve been here all year working, so we are ready to get out there to see what we can do,” said Yett, the team’s top returning hitter from a year ago.
Entering his senior season after sporting a .323 batting average last season with six home runs and 37 RBIs, Yett looks to post another solid season with a nice supporting cast around him. Fellow seniors, Cammarata and Bullock, plan to continue their success from a year ago into their final season while mentoring a whopping 17 newcomers throughout the season.
Charlotte will also get another chance to play under the lights this season as they play two games in the beautiful BB&T Ballpark located in uptown Charlotte. Their first is a rematch against NC State, who the Niners lost to 6-9 a year ago.
The second game is against Clemson, a team they have not played since 2010 when the Niners won an exciting 11-10 game at Hayes Stadium. The Niners went 1-1 last season at BB&T Ballpark, beating Wake Forest 13-1 and losing to UNC 2-14. Charlotte also had a third game scheduled last year against Arkansas that was cancelled due to inclement weather. These games give players a great opportunity to get a feel for a professional environment while taking in the expansive scenery uptown has to offer.
With the season just three weeks away, Charlotte intends to hone their skills and prepare for a torrid 56 game schedule while attempting to claim their first conference championship since 2011.
Last year, the Niners got off to a 7-0 start at home. This Feb. 15, they will look for that same success to carry over into this season when they face Delaware at 3 p.m. in Hayes Stadium.