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Charlotte sweeps Delaware to start the season off strong

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.

2019 Baseball preview

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: 

Roster 

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.

Charlotte fails to come back against LA Tech in a tough road loss

The Niners (10-8) continued their road woes on Saturday after losing to Louisiana Tech (10-9) 88-51. They’ve now lost six away games straight with their last road victory against Lehigh on Nov. 25 of last year and are now 1-7 on the road for the season. 

Charlotte started the game off quickly after taking a 17-5 lead early in the first quarter, capped off by two three-pointers from sophomore Mariah Linney. The Niners continued to shoot well until about midway through the second quarter when LA Tech’s defense took over and held Charlotte to 29 percent shooting going 12-41 from the floor. Charlotte also failed to reach the free throw line throughout the game as they finished 5-7. LA Tech managed to get to the line 16 more times, shooting 17-23 for the game.

Turnovers also played a huge role in the Niners’ downfall. Charlotte had five in the first quarter and 23 for the game, which led to 30 points off turnovers from LA Tech and helped them to stretch their lead to double digits early in the third quarter. 

Charlotte also had difficulty on the glass throughout the game, being out-rebounded 50-32, and specifically on the offensive end where Charlotte saw LA Tech grab 21 offensive boards leading to 28 second chance points. 

It wasn’t all rough for the 49ers though as Linney finished the game with 11 points. Jade Phillips led the team with four assists while also totaling five points and seven rebounds. Octavia Jett-Wilson and Jazmin Harris each added 6 points off a combined 6-11 shooting while Laia Raventós and Jada McMillian each scored 5 points for the game. 

Freshman guard Rinnah Green, who finished with two points, spoke about how the team could get better from this point forward. “We need to play with more heart and win it for ourselves. We got disappointed after continuous mistakes and it got out of hand quickly.” said Green. 

Charlotte will look to end its current two game skid and continue their five game home winning streak when they travel back to Halton Arena for a two-game homestead starting against UTSA this Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.