The Charlotte 49ers baseball squad officially opens up the 2013 season with a four-game series starting Friday at 4 p.m. at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. The series, which includes a Saturday doubleheader, will be against Delaware State out of the MEAC, the first of five teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012 on the Charlotte schedule this year. This will be the first time these two schools have played one another in baseball.
The Saturday doubleheader starts at noon, with game two commencing approximately 40 minutes after the conclusion of game one. Sunday's game has been moved to 1 p.m. from its originally scheduled noon time.
The Hornets reached 40 wins last season after winning the MEAC title and return five of last season's top six hitters and 35 of the 40 pitching wins and all 10 saves from the 2012 squad.
The 49ers return seven players who started more than half of the games last season but only a third of the team's 21 pitching victories, and 10 of the team's 12 saves from last season.
Charlotte is 6-1-1 in season-opening series (with a four-game split at FIU to start the 1992 season), sweeping their last two season-opening series, both at home.
Charlotte is 21-13 in season-opening games, 13-5 in home season openers. The 49ers have won their last five season-opening games at home. Under head coach Loren Hibbs, Charlotte has a 14-6 mark in season-openers, including a 7-1 mark in the past eight seasons in opening games.
The starting rotations for the series are as follows (with 2012 stats)...
Fri.: Jr. RH Tyler Barnette (3-3,
4.20, 33 K, 29 BB) vs. Sr. LH Ryan Hass (4-1, 3.65, 22 K, 16 BB)
Sat. (G1): Sr. LH John Hamilton (2-1, 2.92, 16 K, 7 Sv.) vs. RSr. RH Jordan Elliott (10-2, 2.92, 65 K, 29 BB)
(G2): Jr. RH Brock Hudgens (0-3, 3.77, 36 K, 18 BB) vs. RSr. LH Zach Adkins (8-1, 2.73, 45 K, 29 BB)
Sun.: Jr. LH Jason Harris (2-3, 6.35, 57 K, 33 BB) vs. Jr. RH Matt McClain (9-4, 2.95, 55 K, 19 BB)
(Junior transfer Jason Harris' stats were with Barton County Community College in 2012.)
Charlotte fans will notice a few changes from year's past... The team's closer the past two seasons, senior John Hamilton, has made the transition into the starting rotation. Hamilton and associate head coach Brandon Hall put together a plan back in the fall to prepare the senior to go deeper into games than he has in the past, but be more of a factor throughout the season.
"It's nice to have some routines and to know when you are going to pitch," said Hamilton. "The work on non-pitching days will be a little different, but knowing when you are going out there makes it different to prepare for mentally."
Senior third baseman Shane Basen and redshirt senior Justin Roland, the only two players to start all 53 games for Charlotte last season, are moving defensive positions this season. Basen, who has started at third in Charlotte's last 95 games, will move to the shortstop position. Roland, who has started at short in Charlotte's last 115-straight games, and 181 games overall, will move to second base this season. Both were shortstops in high school. Roland is currently seventh all-time in defensive assists at Charlotte, while Basen is tied for 17th in that category. Roland brings an active streak of reaching base safely in his last 26 games, while Basen takes an active nine-game hit streak into the start of 2013.
Finally, head coach Loren Hibbs will spend more of the season out of the dugout this year, as he will coach first base when the team is at bat. He will continue to relay the signs to the hitters and baserunners from the field in the running game, which will allow assistant coach Kris Rochelle, who has coached first the last three seasons, to counsel hitters before and after at bats in the dugout while the team is on offense. Rochelle is also scheduled to travel more during the season on recruiting trips, so his absence will not cause as much shifting of on-field personnel on game days when he is absent from the team. He will continue to manage the defensive positioning of players when the 49ers are in the field.
Charlotte was picked to finish fourth in the 2013 preseason poll, grabbing 168 votes by the A-10 coaches in the league.
Since joining the league in 2006, Charlotte is 178-53-1 when scoring first and 128-35-1 when scoring in the first inning. The 49ers have outscored opponents 363-264 in the first inning over the past seven seasons. The 49ers have scored in the first inning in nearly 42 percent of games in the last seven seasons.
The first 150 fans to Friday's season-opener will receive a free t-shirt. Saturday is free youth day at the ballpark. Single game tickets for the season are on sale through Charlotte49ers.com or by contacting the 49ers Ticket Office by phone at 704-687-4949.
Friday and Saturday's action will be streamed live through Charlotte49ers.tv via the All-Access Player. Live Stats are available through the Web site, and also on the Charlotte 49ers Mobile App.