Charlotte (3-0) started the season off the right way by sweeping Delaware (0-3) out of Hayes Stadium and setting themselves up for a tough contest at Clemson on Monday, Feb. 18.
Game 1: Charlotte 5, Delaware 2
The Niners started off a little shaky after allowing two quick runs in the first inning to a strong Delaware squad that was looking to spoil Charlotte’s home opener. However, Tommy Bullock was walked in the bottom of the first allowing Carson Johnson to advance home for the first run of the game. Patrick Wheeler singled up the middle setting Drew Ober up to score evening the game at two a piece.
After the first inning, starting pitcher and returning Junior Matt Brooks settled down along with the Niner defense shutting out the high-flying Delaware offense. Brooks ended up pitching 6.2 innings before Colby Bruce took over for the final 2.1. The two pitchers finished the game allowing just eight hits while throwing eight strikeouts in total.
Charlotte was able to find a little breathing room in the bottom of the third when Bullock was able to score on a passed ball giving the Niners a 3-2 lead. The score remained this way for much of the game until late in the seventh when Josh Haney singled to center field allowing Wheeler and Rafi Vazquez to score making the game 5-2.
Bruce came on late in the seventh for the save and helped Charlotte win their fourth straight opening day game.
Game 2: Charlotte 3, Delaware 1
Head Coach Loren Hibbs notched his 800th career win as a head coach after Charlotte’s 3-1 victory over Delaware on Friday evening.
“It was good to play and get another game under our belts.” said Hibbs.
Charlotte came swinging in the second game of their double header on Friday having not yet had enough of the Delaware pitching squad. The Niners quickly built a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Bullock was able to score off a stolen base due to an error in the Delaware outfield. This was immediately followed by a Cammarata fly out to left field which allowed Tate Pennington to score.
Delaware tried to come back in the top of the fourth when Joseph Carpenter singled to the left allowing his teammate to score and bring the game within one score. This was for naught, though, as Charlotte’s defense cracked down for the remainder of the game behind a strong pitching rotation.
Vazquez made headlines as well after hitting his first home run of the season in the top of the sixth inning, giving Charlotte a 3-1 lead. Vasquez leads a strong Charlotte lineup of hitters who know they can score with anyone.
Game two for Charlotte was a little different for the inner bullpen, however, as they saw four pitchers take the mound as opposed to two in game one. This did not seem to hurt Charlotte, though, as the four pitchers in rotation notched a seven-hit outing while containing the high-flying Delaware offense to just one solo run that came in the top of the fourth inning. Bryce McGowan was credited with his first win of the year after pitching a hitless two innings while Chase Gooding recorded his first save of the season.
Game 3: Charlotte 5, Delaware 4
The last game of the series came under question after a series of rain and poor weather plagued the Charlotte area following game two of the series. Due to increased rain and field conditions, the game was moved from a 1 p.m. start time to a 3 p.m. start time. Coach Hibbs credited the facility and the maintenance crew for working on the field throughout Saturday morning to get the field ready to go.
“We have a great staff and an amazing facility that has allowed us the opportunity to play even when the weather is against us.” said Hibbs.
And boy what a game it was.
Vazquez continued his hitting streak into Saturday’s game, singling to the right side for an RBI from Johnson in the first inning. Charlotte again saw four pitchers in rotation led by Carson Pinkney and Gooding.
The game started as a defensive battle after the first inning scored by Johnson. Each team went back and forth for three scoreless innings, making a few incredible defensive plays. It wasn’t until the fifth inning when Delaware’s bats woke up. They were able to get a few quick hits which led to a double for Mohollen that allowed Delaware to take their first lead since game one of the series.
“We were challenged, and when you are challenged like that, whether it is baseball, basketball, football, you have a decision to make. Whether you are gonna freak out and go south or keep grinding and keep playing, but we actually practiced those late game situations in fall and early spring and we were prepared when it happened.” said Hibbs.
And fight back they did. After a Miller home run for Delaware in the sixth, Charlotte scored four runs over the next two innings led by individual singles from Bullock and Ober that each notched an RBI followed by a huge two-run home run from Harris Yett that broke a 3-3 tie and pushed the lead to two. This would prove to be enough for Charlotte as Chase Goodwin came in for the save, flying out the last batter and giving Charlotte the series sweep to open the season.
“It’s nice to get a series sweep anytime regardless of when it happens, but to start the season off this way is especially sweet.” said Hibbs.
After being predicted to finish sixth in the conference, Charlotte is already beginning to prove doubters wrong as they start the season undefeated and will look to continue that hot streak into the Monday, Feb. 18 match up against the 2-1 Clemson Tigers at 4 p.m.