The longest-tenured coach in the Charlotte athletics department and under contract until 2018, Loren Hibbs has completed 23 seasons at the helm of the baseball program and has averaged more than 30 wins per season in his career. He has taken the program to all five of its NCAA Tournament appearances. Hibbs would win his 700th game on Saturday, April 4th at Old Dominion.
In 2015, Hibbs spearheaded the efforts to get the Niners playing in the first-ever college baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. BB&T Ballpark, home to the Charlotte Knights, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, hosted a school-record 8,147 fans as the Niners fell 10-6 to N.C. State.
The Niners took another step forward during the year, their second back in Conference USA, improving the league win total (11), just narrowly missing out of the league tournament. Charlotte would sweep games from N.C. State and UNCG in a rain-altering series played at Historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah during the second weekend of the season.
In front of a National Television audience, the first-ever played at Hayes Stadium, Hibbs guided the Niners to a 5-0 win over C-USA opponent Louisiana Tech, going on to sweep the three-game set over the weekend. After the Uptown game, the Niners would take two-of-three at Old Dominion before sweeping a three-game road series at UAB to get the Niners back in the postseason race. Postseason awards under Hibbs included Brett Netzer landing on the C-USA all-Freshman Team while starting pitcher Sean Geoghegan and right-fielder Brad Elwood ended up on the NCCSIA All-State Second Team. Elwood also won the prestigious ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove award in right field after leading the nation with 12 outfield assists and going error-free in 117 chances. Elwood becomes the first Niner to ever win a Gold Glove award while Netzer's league awards keeps Charlotte streak of one player winning an award alive, now at 33-straight seasons.
The 49ers' skipper was at the helm when Charlotte played its 2,000th game in program history. That contest took place on May 10th at Southern Miss. Hibbs has been in control of the Niners baseball program from 1,281 of the 2,004 games played. He won the program's 1,000th game in its 35th season of baseball on February 25th, 2013, and his 650th game as the Charlotte's mentor later that year on April 3rd. Charlotte split a regular-season Atlantic 10 Conference title, giving the 49ers five championships in the eight-year run of A-10 membership. He has guided Charlotte to all seven of its regular-season titles, four tournament titles and five NCAA Postseason appearances. The 49ers also reached their eighth conference tournament championship game in 2013.
In 2014, the Niners took a minor step back re-entering Conference USA play picking up their first league win on March 30th with an 11-4 victory at Old Dominion. Charlotte would later go on to sweep Tulane in a two-game series (game three was canceled due to rain), take two-of-three on the road at UTSA and sweep Louisiana Tech in Ruston to win six of their last seven road contests in C-USA play. T.J. Nichting would be named to the all-Freshman Team under Hibbs.
At the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, Charlotte was ranked 45th in hits and 33rd in earned run average as Charlotte made dramtic improvements in hits and doubles on the offensive side, as well as increasing the strikeout totals, lowering the walks and improving the earned run average over the previous season. The 49ers posted their fourth season of a team ERA of 3.50 or better in the last eight seasons, a direct result of which was a 37-win season, the program's sixth in the last eight years, a team first.
The 49ers again broke the attendance record, as 39,604 fans attended 40 home dates in 2013, for an average of 990 per contest. The total attendance crushed the school's previous record of 35,104 and gave the program four straight seasons of 30,000-plus fans, the best stretch in program history.
At the conclusion of the 2012 season, Charlotte had one player drafted (Miguel Rodriguez, 36 Round by Boston) and another sign a pro contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Andrew Smith), giving the program its 60th and 61st players to reach an affiliate of a Major League Baseball club.
49ers baseball ranked eighth nationally of the 297 Division I programs in winning percentage (at .714) in a five-year window from 2007-2011, with a record of 207-83 in that time, putting the Niners in elite company. Charlotte was one of only 15 programs in the country to register a Top-75 winning percentage (at .600 or more) in the those five seasons.
Charlotte had notched a win over a team ranked No. 7 or higher in four straight seasons (2008-2011), including a home win over No. 6 North Carolina 4-3 at home on March 29, 2011. Charlotte beat a second ranked team in the postseason, taking out No. 19 Arkansas to start the Tempe, Ariz. Regional. The 49ers did not play a team ranked higher than No. 19 in 2012.
Speaking of rankings, Charlotte has been ranked in a national poll inthe seven year stretch from 2006-2012, topping out at No. 18 in June of 2007, and reaching the Top 25 as recently as 2011 in two different weeks of that season. The 49ers were in Other Receiving Votes in the opening weeks of the 2012 season
In 2007, Charlotte led the nation in ERA with the national low of 2.64. The starters were the anchor for the staff that season, with a 2.33 ERA, tossing 13 complete games and 11 shutouts. Starter Adam Mills led the nation in both ERA (1.01 in 142.2 innings pitched) and wins (14), while finishing sixth in total strikeouts (141). Charlotte was second in the nation that season in win percentage (.803, just behind Vanderbilt's .806 final percentage) thanks to a school-record 49 wins against just 13 losses.
In 2007, Charlotte won its first NCAA Tournament games, a pair of victories against N.C. State, advancing to the Columbia, S.C. Regional final. The team earned national rankings in numerous polls and put two more athletes on the All-American roster (Adam Mills and Brad McElroy). Pitcher Adam Mills broke season and career marks in numerous categories on his way to being named A-10 Pitcher of the Year and a finalist for the Roger Clemens Award, given to the top pitcher in the country. Charlotte also set the school and Atlantic 10 record by winning 23 conference games. Hibbs was named A-10 Coach of the Year, his third such award in his third different conference.
In 2008, Charlotte secured a win at No. 3 and eventual Regional Finalist South Carolina 11-2. It was the first win over a top-10 team since defeating No. 6 Houston in 2000. In 2009, the Niners repeated the feat of upending a Top-Five team on the road, taking a 2-1 victory at No. 5 North Carolina. The Niners have either been in the Top 25 or have received votes in each of the past three seasons. Since moving into the new stadium on March 30, 2007, Charlotte is 60-18 at home, with a 37-20 road mark in that span, winning nine of 15 neutral-site games in the past three seasons. Charlotte has won seven of its last nine A-10 Tournament games, sweeping the 2007 and 2008 tournaments. The consecutive tournament titles are a school record. 2008 brought 43 more wins in addition to the conference regular-season and tournament titles, and the second invitation to the postseason, this time in Raleigh, N.C. During a span of 95 games covering the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Niners would go 95 games without losing back-to-back games.
Charlotte climbed back to the top of the Atlantic 10 in 2010, winning the regular season title for the third time in five seasons of league membership. Charlotte also tied the school record for consecutive home wins with 17 straight, also tying the school mark with 29 home wins during the season. The 49ers welcomed 999 fans per game, shattering the record for attendance for a season, with 33,969 fans coming through the gates to watch a Niners home game.
The 49ers captured their fourth Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title in the past five years in 2011, winning back-to-back regular season titles for the second time. They also won their third A-10 Tournament Championship in the past five seasons, earning the program's fifth-ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. Charlotte outpaced the 2010 attendance record by averaging 1,043 fans per game in 2011, for a total of 34,440 fans for the season.
The 2008 season saw the end of a pair of remarkable streaks. Charlotte lasted 179 games without being shutout, averaging 7.8 runs per game in that stretch. That is a streak that lasted through two full seasons, starting on April 8, 2005 and ending on April 22, 2008. Charlotte also lost in consecutive games for the first time in 95 games, a streak running from on February 3, 2007 to April 17, 2008.
Hibbs was hired as head coach of the Charlotte baseball program on February 26, 1992, and his appointment paid immediate dividends. In his first season, 1993, Hibbs took the 49ers to their first NCAA Tournament and guided them to their first-ever conference tournament championship with the 1993 Metro Conference Tournament title.
He led the 49ers to back-to-back conference regular-season titles with the 1994 and 1995 Metro regular season crowns. In 1995, he coached the 49ers to what was then a school-record 36 wins, along with the program's first-ever votes in a national poll.
The 49ers first-place league finish in 1994 earned him Metro Conference Coach of the Year honors. The following year's campaign brought several firsts, the program's first votes in a national poll and the first win over a top-10 program, a 7-5 victory at Tennessee.
In 1997, Charlotte knocked off top-seed and host Tulane by defeating them twice at the Conference USA Tournament and made it to the tournament finals. During the 1998 season, the 49ers won a then-school-record 43 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time. The Niners earned the program's only at-large bid to the NCAA Postseason, in an era when only 48 teams were taken to the tournament. That season, he garnered Conference USA Coach of the Year honors as Charlotte completed its fifth-straight season of 29 or more wins. An 11-game win streak to start the 2000 season still stands as the school record en route to a 32-win season and trip to the C-USA semis. Charlotte upended No. 6 Houston in the tournament. The number 11 was magical that season, as pitchers Ryan Baker and Brion Treadway both won 11 games and reliever John McKay recorded 11 saves. In early 2002, Hibbs became the school's all-time winningest baseball coach.
Not only have the teams under Hibbs excelled, but several individuals have gone on to receive national acclaim. Eight of the school's nine All-Americans have played under Hibbs, with Charlotte placing four players on these lists in the past seven seasons. In 1995, Tim Collie was named the Metro Conference Player of the Year and became just the second 49er baseball All-American. Joey Anderson earned All-America honors in 1996, giving the 49ers their third All-American and second in four years under Hibbs. In 1998, Bo Robinson and James Matan became the fourth and fifth Charlotte All-Americans. Matan was named the 1998 Conference USA Player of the Year. In 2001, John Maine was named the Conference USA Pitcher of the Year. Maine pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets and Miami Marlins and earned a win in the National League Championship Series in 2006. Teammates Brad McElroy and Adam Mills were put on an All-America team in 2007. Mills was the A-10 Pitcher of the Year, while McElroy led the conference in five offensive categories. In 2008, Chris Taylor was named Co-Conference Player of the Year, Charlotte's second, and a third-team All-American, with a league-leading 19 home runs. Andrew Smith captured the A-10 Pitcher of the Year in 2011, earning Third-Team All-America status.
Charlotte teams have excelled on the field but emphasis has been placed on winning in the classroom. In the fall of 2007, the team set a record with a 3.01 GPA. In the fall of 2008, Charlotte baseball recorded a 2.92 GPA and the team cumulative GPA sat at 3.078 collectively at the start of the 2012 fall season. Charlotte scored an impressive NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 983, one point short of its highest rating since the NCAA instituted it, putting them well above the national score of all baseball programs. In the fall of 2008, 18 players were named to an academic honor list, including eight who earned Dean's List distinction or better. Three players have received NCAA degree completion grants to finish their degrees. In 2006, Mike Ambrose was the program's first Capital One First-Team Academic All-American, with Shane Basen becoming the season in 2013. Basen was the second player in program history to win back-to-back Academic All-America honors, and was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, winning a Second-Team All-Senior CLASS distinction. in addition to receiving an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Ambrose was also Male Student-Athlete of the Year in the Atlantic 10, another first for Charlotte. Cory Tilton became Charlotte's second A-10 Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year in 2011. Tilton was also a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, earning First-Team All-Senior CLASS nod.
The 49ers have also done a lot of community service in his 21 seasons. The fall of 2012 was the 49ers first working with the Miracle League, as the University YMCA built a special baseball field on which special needs children could play the game. The 49ers worked with the kids and helped them to enjoy playing the game of baseball. Baseball has also worked annual projects with Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross Blood Drive, as well as with the Metrolina Food Bank, the Epilepsy Foundation's Walk, area shelters and making visits to Hemby's Children's Hospital. Hibbs and his team have also taken part in several local youth clinics and he has worked with several clinics regionally.
Hibbs arrived in Charlotte after serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Wichita State. Over his career, Hibbs has piled up an impressive resume of accomplishments. As a player he was involved in two regular-season conference titles, one conference tournament championship, two NCAA regionals and a second place finish at the College World Series. As an assistant coach, he was involved in seven regular-season conference titles, five tournament titles, seven regional appearances, four College World Series visits and one national championship. He was associated with some form of conference championship in every season for nine straight years from 1987-1995. As an assistant to Shockers head coach Gene Stephenson, Hibbs made trips to the NCAA Tournament in six of his seven years and to the College World Series in four of his last five years.
Over the course of his coaching career, both at Charlotte and Wichita State, Hibbs has mentored 14 major league players, including Eric Wedge, Pat Meares, Darren Dreifort, Doug Mirabelli and the 49ers' own Jason Stanford (Cleveland) and John Maine (Baltimore/New York Mets/Miami Marlins). Hibbs has worked with 145 All-Conference, 30 All-Region and 26 All-American selections, in addition to four players who went on to play for Team USA.
He has been a voting member for the Roger Clemens Award and the Johnny Bench Award. Hibbs has also served as the chair of the Metro Conference (1995) and Conference USA (1998) Coaches Committees.
As a player with Wichita State, he was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference and All-District selection in the outfield, and a member of the 1982 College World Series all-tournament team. He still ranks high in several of the Shockers all-time categories, and the 125 runs he scored in the 1982 season are not only a school-record, but an NCAA record as well. Hibbs, a three-time professional draft pick, had a brief professional stint with the San Francisco Giants.
Hibbs has three children. Tyson (28) and Erin (26) are both UNC Charlotte graduates, while Lanie Rae (15) is a potential Niner in the making. He is married to the former Lisa Helms.
|1993||26-32||6-11||Metro Conference Tourn. Champs, NCAA Regional|
|1994||31-25||12-5||Metro Conf. Regular Season Champs|
|1995||36-21||11-7||Metro Conf. Regular Season Champs|
|1998||43-19||19-8||C-USA, At-Large berth to NCAA Regional|
|2007||49-12||23-4||A-10 Reg. Season & Tourn. Champs, NCAA Regional|
|2008||43-16||19-8||A-10 Reg. Season & Tourn. Champs, NCAA Regional|
|2010||40-17||20-7||A-10 Regular Season Champs|
|2011||43-16||17-7||A-10 Reg. Season & Tourn. Champs, NCAA Regional|
|2013||37-23||17-7||A-10 Regular Season Champs
|TOTAL||707-570-4||313-277||Seven Reg. Season Titles, Four Tourn. Titles
Five NCAA Tournament Appearances