Charlotte 49ers Softball has seen their share of ups and downs over the past few seasons. Putting on a fairly strong performance in 2017 and graduating no players, the bit of a flip-flop they experienced the next season wasn’t necessarily expected.
At the close of the 2017 season, Charlotte finished with a 30-23 record overall and won a whopping 19 games at home, only losing four. On the road though, they finished with a 7-13 record which isn’t unusual. 2017 saw a losing record just shy of a winning one, going 11-12 in Conference USA, but also made it into the postseason losing in the second round to LA Tech after pushing past North Texas.
With a fairly decent season in the books, it looked like they may be able to carry it over and improve in order to advance further into the postseason and maybe bump up some of their numbers throughout the season. On the contrary, it was a bit of a tough season for the ladies in green who went 18-32 overall and 9-15 in C-USA. These Niners just couldn’t maintain their drive into the next season, but what can happen for them to get it back in 2019? There are a few things, as there always are for any team to improve, that Charlotte will be considering this season.
There are six freshmen on this 2019 roster and of the six, four of them are North Carolina natives. Outfielder Anna Devereaux, hailing from Mocksville, N.C, holds her high school’s record for career at-bats and sits at second for career runs scored. Catcher Bailey Vannoy, coming from Rouse High School in Leander, Texas, garnered the Female Athlete of the Year title after spending her freshman season competing in varsity volleyball, track and baseball. In her sophomore and junior years, she was named the Rouse High School softball MVP and named First-Team All-District.
Catcher Paysia Reed, who went to Cox Mill High School, helped to lead her team to a conference championship in 2016 and was named All-Conference and All-District Player of the Year. Another N.C. native and an outfielder in Imani Rochelle was named All-Conference Player of the year each of her four years at Heritage High School. Maggie Cannon, a pitcher from Salisbury, Md, earned Player of the Year three times and was a four-time MVP and four-time First-Team All-Conference.
Reagan Thompson, a pitcher and a leader behind the plate, comes from High Point, N.C. and was awarded NFCA All-State and All-District both in 2015 and 2017. Each of these young women brings something special to Charlotte including a drive and passion for the game seen in many of the returning players as well. The Niners will just need to continue their gold standard as a team this season.
Although 2017 saw no graduates, the 2018 season ended with a walk-off win against USM to send out seven Charlotte 49ers in style.
Aside from the fact that there are seven returning seniors, there’s also been a familiar face added to Charlotte’s coaching staff. Haley Pace, who graduated last year, was added to serve as a student assistant coach this season. Pace saw starts in every game of her playing career and set the bar high for batting average, slugging percentage and hits as well as RBI and home runs. Head Coach Aimee DeVos and her staff are looking forward to having someone of Pace’s caliber and experience staying with the program.
Becca Shipper who was second on the team with 25 runs has graduated out of the Charlotte program and Pace who was tied for first with 27 runs has also graduated, which leaves Kiersten Berrier who also recorded 27 runs last season. The Niners may still need some players to step up and push out some more runs this season. Jude McGough recorded 16 runs last season and a returning senior in Meredith Harris recorded 14, so she would be a name to watch this season as well.
Haley Wiseman pitched for 191 strikeouts, and following her was Alison Green who recorded 26, Carson Pace who recorded 22 and Lauren Riley who pitched for 15. Each of those Niners, aside from Wiseman who graduated, are returning this season; Pace and Green for their junior seasons and Riley for her senior year.
Of the six leaders in hits last season sat Harris, Berrier and Emma Ocker, another returning senior who recorded 35 hits. Bethany Doty started 33 of 39 games players and tallied eight walks and seven runs scored. Lizzy Birch started 40 of 44 games played and eight RBI, 10 walks and a career-high seven doubles.
Of the seven seniors this season — Riley, Berrier, Harris, Ocker, Doty, Birch and Alex Paulson — there is so much diverse talent and potential leadership returning to Sue M. Daughtridge Stadium this year in the senior class alone.
Capitalizing away and in conference
Of the Niners’ 15 conference losses in 2018, eight of them were on the opposing team’s turf and most of them, though not all, were within four runs. The home losses were sometimes a little tougher to take, with a 0-7 loss to USM, an 0-12 loss to FAU and 4-13 and 2-11 losses to LA Tech. Of course, LA Tech tends to be around the top of the conference, having prevailed as conference champions in 2017.
In 2018 though, Middle Tennessee saw their first conference championship and Charlotte certainly held their own with the Blue Raiders during the regular season. In an away three-game series, the Niners lost the first two games, only falling 0-1 and 2-4 and winning the final contest 4-1.
Of course, the Blue Raiders fought long and hard to even get to the postseason and saw a much different 2017 season than their conference championship-winning 2018 season. Although Charlotte has a better history in the postseason, it’s possible this season wouldn’t have to be much different for the Niners than last season was for Middle Tennessee.
At least holding their own against LA Tech, if not taking them down, would be ideal for Charlotte as well as continuing to consistently garner wins in conference over North Texas, USM and Middle Tennessee.
Charlotte will look to utilize their new and old talent and start the season off strong on Thursday, Feb. 7 in Phoenix, Arizona at 7 p.m. as a part of the GCU Kickoff Tournament.