Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: 49ers | School Location: Charlotte, NC | Conference: Conference USA
2017 Record: 34-24 (18-12, T-3rd) | 2017 RPI Rank: 57
2016 Record: 23-32 (12-17, 8th) | 2016 RPI Rank: 158
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: NC State’s Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC
Game Time: Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 3:00pm
TV: ACC Network Extra (ESPN3/WatchESPN/whatever it’s called these days)
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/ncsu/baseball/
Tell me about this team
Charlotte started off the 2018 season with a three-game series sweep of Iona in convincing fashion, winning each game by no less than four runs; however, that might have as much to do with Iona being a poor team as it does with Charlotte reloading from 2017. The 49ers lost a wealth of talent from that 2017 team including their top three hitters and two of three weekend starting pitchers. All told, four 49ers from the 2017 squad were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, with three of them selected in the top nine rounds.
The 2017 season saw Charlotte take a huge leap forward under long-time coach Loren Hibbs, now in his 26th season. The 34 overall wins were the most for the program since leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference and re-joining Conference USA in 2014. Not to mention a jump of 101 spots in the RPI rankings is good, or so I’m told.
The cupboard is certainly not bare for Charlotte coming into this year, but there are plenty of holes to fill, especially on offense and in the bullpen, as the team looks to take another step forward and contend for postseason play.
Offensively, Charlotte stole seven bases in the opening three-game series, but has not typically been an overly aggressive team on the basepaths, and did lose 16 of their 42 team stolen bases from a year ago in the form of 9th Round (Orioles) MLB pick TJ Nichting. Given the amount of offense needing replacing from a year ago, a change in style might be in the cards. Charlotte, as a team, hit .354 over the three games against Iona, but I can’t imagine that’s a sustainable number over an entire season given the increased difficulty of the schedule.
Starting pitching should be a strength of this team, but a reliable bullpen will need to be formed if the team is going to outperform the preseason prediction of a 6th place finish in Conference USA.
3B Jackson Mims (RS-JR) - .319 BA, .369 OBP, .496 SLG, 248 AB, 20 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 47 R, 39 RBI, 15 BB, 33 K, 6-9 SB in 2017. The ECU transfer hit .417 (5-for-12) with a 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB, K, and 2 SB in the opening series last weekend. Mims is the best all-around hitter on the team and should be the offensive leader in most categories.
SS Hunter Jones (SR) - .312 BA, .387 OBP, .352 SLG, 199 AB, 4 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 35 R, 24 RBI, 22 BB, 20 K, 2-3 SB in 2017. A four-year starter and bottom-of-the-order guy, Jones is hitting .222 (2-for-9) with 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, and a HBP through three games.
DH Drew Ober (RS-SO) - .354 BA, .404 OBP, .438 SLG, 48 AB, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 12 RBI, 3 BB, 0 K, 1-1 SB in 13 games in 2017. Ober is expected to be a big piece of the offense after missing the majority of 2017 with an injury.
Potential impact newcomers include OF Dominick Cammarata (RS-JR) and 2B Tommy Bullock (JR). Cammarata and Bullock are JUCO transfers from Pitt CC in Greenville and began the season as starters. Cammarata, especially, has a lot of pop in his bat. INF Tate Pennington (FR) and INF Jake Whitcomb (FR) are two guys who could develop into productive players when their opportunities come.
RHP Matt Brooks (SO) - 7-4, 2 SV, 3.14 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .227 OBA, 63.0 IP, 52 H, 23 R, 22 ER, 12 BB, 58 K in 2017. Brooks enters the season as the Friday starter for Charlotte. In his first outing, he went 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, throwing 96 pitches. State won’t see him unless the weekend staff is shuffled for the 49ers.
LHP Josh Maciejewski (SR) - 5-5, 3 SV, 5.35 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, .286 OBA, 77.1 IP, 87 H, 50 R, 46 ER, 31 BB, 59 K in 2017. A weekend starter (Saturday), State won’t see him unless it’s in a late, short outing save situation. Went 6.0 IP, allowing 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, and 1 BB while striking out 11 in his season debut, throwing 108 (!!!) pitches.
RHP Jonah Patten (SR) - 1-1, 7 SV, 4.54 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, .232 OBA, 33.2 IP, 29 H, 20 R, 17 ER, 32 BB, 40 K in 2017. The 49ers primary closer a year ago, Charlotte Wild Thing is transitioning to a weekend starter role (Sunday) this year, but that was a bit of a rough transition in the opener despite getting the win: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. State won’t see him.
RHP Colby Bruce (SO) - 3-0, 4.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .273 OBA, 39.0 IP, 39 H, 21 R, 20 ER, 10 BB, 26 K in 2017. Likely to be one of, if not the key bullpen arm for the 49ers.
LHP Joey Cooner (JR) - Cooner will get the start against the Pack on Wednesday. He recorded the win on the mound for Charlotte in their season opener against Iona, going 2.2 IP, allowing 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 1 HBP while recording 1 K and uncorking 1 WP over 57 pitches. Cooner was a 3rd Team JUCO All-American last year who went 11-2 with a 2.70 ERA and a stat line of 83.1 IP, 80 H, 32 R, 25 ER, 27 BB, 106 K at Crowder College.
Potential impact newcomers include RHP Carson Pinkney (RS-JR), LHP Conner Rudy (FR), and RHP J.C. Ouzts (FR).
Quick! Fun Facts!
Wednesday’s match-up will be the 35th meeting between the two schools all-time, with NC State holding a 26-8 advantage in the series.
The Charlotte 49ers baseball program played their first game in 1979 and hold an overall program record of 1,128-982-7.
Charlotte has made 5 NCAA Tournament appearances, with the most recent being in 2011.
Eight former Charlotte players have made it to the MLB: Stu Cole (1991), Chris Haney (1991-2002), Bryan Harvey (1987-1995), Jeff Johnson (1991-1993), John Maine (2004-2013), Armando Rios (1998-2003), Jason Stanford (2003, 2004, 2007), and Sean Whiteside (1995).
FR INF/C Sam Mennitt looks like the stereotypically cast southern hillbilly in a red pick-up truck smoking a cigarette at the old country gas station in any Hollywood movie ever.
I have no clue who is even going to get the ball on the mound for State tomorrow, but my money would be on a Johnny Wholestaff game with a few fresh faces getting a go. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Michael Bienlien run out there for 6+ innings because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .
Either way, it’s hard to make a prediction with so many unknowns. I’m going to just throw a few pickles to the window and see which one sticks best since no one outcome seems any more likely than any other...
6-5 State in another close game with O’Donnell getting the save again.