Niner Nuggets- Week 13

Graduates 2021
49er Baseball Graduates- Photo by Sam Roberts/ FreezeFrame

Series Sweep over Marshall  – It was a big weekend at the Hayes and the 4 game sweep was only a part of it. Before the double header on Saturday, Chancellor Gaber , AD Mike Hill and Director of the Academic Center Mark Verberg participated in a ceremony honoring the 49er Baseball graduates. The Niners are on the road during UNC Charlotte Commencement, so it was nice to hold a special ceremony at the Hayes recognizing their academic achievements. The graduates honored were : Todd Elwood, Colby Bruce, Carson Johnson, Jackson Boss, Ryan Czanstkowski, Jacob Whitley, Andrew Roach, Trae Starnes, Nick Turnbull, Matt Brooks, and Craig Keuchel. Congratulations to all the graduates!! Welcome to being an alumnus!!!

The 49ers also had Senior Day on Sunday to honor the Seniors on the team, Todd Elwood, Carson Johnson, Nick Turnbull, Ryan Czanstkowski, and Craig Keuchel. Thank you Seniors for putting the #9AcrossTheChest and representing our University so well over the years.

On to baseball, most of the games this weekend were back and forth with the Niners having to battle back to earn the sweep. Some top performances from the week:

  • Spencer Giesting got his much anticipated first start of his career, and he was up to the challenge, throwing a 7 Inning CG, with 11 Ks, only allowing 3 runs on 5 hits.
  • Bryce McGowan gave the Niners another 6 strong innings on a Friday night, striking out 10, and only allowing 1 ER.
  • Nick Turnbull threw 4 no-hit innings out of the pen on Senior Day to help the Niners earn the Sunday Sweep.
  • Austin Knight had 6 hits on the weekend including a HR and 2 more doubles to add to his NCAA lead.
  • LuJames Groover III had 5 hits on the weekend and scored 4 runs. He’s now 2nd in C-USA with a .352 Average behind Austin Knight.
  • Aaron McKeithan had 5 hits and 5 RBI for the weekend.
  • Will Butcher had 2 HR and 5 RBI on the weekend.
  • Austin Marozas and Trae Starnes both pitched well in their 2 appearances on the weekend.

Rankings, Rankings, & More Rankings – After a 4-0 week the Niners continued to receive national recognition in the polls. This week the Niners jumped up to #18 in the Baseball America poll and #20 in D1 Baseball’s Top 25. They are also ranked 24th by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, 20th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and 18th in the NCBWA poll. The Niners have also been projected to earn a post season regional berth by both Baseball America and D1 Baseball.

#PostSeason – Charlotte has put themselves in a great position to receive the program’s first at-large NCAA Tournament bid since 1998. In fact, the 49ers were one of 40+ programs across the country to put in a bid to host an NCAA regional. Due to Covid protocols, the NCAA is selecting regional sites earlier than normal this season in order to properly prepare sites for these events. Friday morning, the committee is supposed to announce the 20 finalists for the regional sites. They will later cut this down to the 16 host sites during tournament championship weekend. D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers mentioned last night that the Niners could possibly be hosting from the new Gastonia Honey Hunters’ Ballpark if chosen as a regional host.

The latest projections from D1 Baseball show the Niners as a #2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional. Baseball America projects the Niners to host a Regional as the #14 overall seed.

The Niners have certainly put together a nice resume to be considered as a regional host and an at large team in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Here is a quick look:

  • The Niners (35-14, 22-6 C-USA) are currently in 1st place in Conference USA, which has had the 5th best conference RPI of all leagues for much of the season.
  • Within conference play the Niners have:
    • Split 8 games with nationally ranked ODU (4-4)
    • Swept FAU, FIU, and Marshall in 4-game series. (12-0)
    • Won 3 of 4 over WKU and UTSA, with both losses coming in extra innings (6-2)
    • Final conference series at Rice
  • The Non-conference portion of the schedule has helped propel Charlotte to 16th in the current RPI. The highlight of the non conference resume is the 9-0 shutout mid-week victory over #5 Tennessee at the Hayes. Overall the Niners were 4-2 in mid-week games with victories over North Carolina on the road, and a ‘home and home’ sweep over App State. The only 2 losses were on the road at UNCG and at Wake Forest early in the season.
  • On the weekends out of conference, the Niners have won three of their five series’. They swept both Morehead State and William & Mary to start the season, and won two of three over Rhode Island. The only home series loss was two games to one loss to Western Carolina in Week 3. The Niners also lost three games on the road at #11 ECU in Week 4. The Niners have a home series scheduled with UNCW to end the regular season.
Charlotte’s Non-conference opponents for 2021.

The Conference USA Race

We are coming up on the final weekend of conference play in the 2021 baseball season. The league has been great this year, with four teams being ranked at once in the polls, and has spent much of the season as the 5th best RPI conference in the country. C-USA currently has 6 teams in the top 100 RPI and our non-conference record sits at 126-103.

The Niners currently sit in first place in the East division with a 3 game lead over ODU. They are also sitting on top of the league as the #1 seed in the upcoming C-USA Tournament in Ruston. We believe one 49er win or ODU loss will clinch the East Division title for Charlotte. They can also clinch the #1 seed in the tournament with 3 wins or a combination of 49er wins and LT/USM/ODU losses.

With Conference USA going with the divisional format this season, the teams selected for the tournament are a little different than in years past. This year the top three from each division will earn a spot into the Tournament and two ‘at-large’ teams will be selected. The two remaining teams with the best record after the top three seeds from each division will earn these two spots.

As of now, Charlotte, ODU, FAU, and WKU have clinched spots in the tournament from the East division. LaTech and Southern Miss have clinched tourney spots from the West division. That leaves UTSA, MTSU, FIU, Rice & UAB all fighting for the final West division spot and the final ‘at-large’ spot. Marshall is the only team that has been eliminated from post season play.

As you can see, there is still plenty to play for in Conference USA (unless you are Marshall), and it should be a very exciting weekend from top to bottom.

A look at Rice

Charlotte is approaching their final conference weekend of the season this week on the road at Rice. The Niners are flying down to Houston this weekend to take on the Owls, who are coming off their first C-USA series victory since May of 2019. After their series win at UAB last weekend, the Owls sit at 21-27-1 overall and 9-18-1 in conference. Rice is still fighting for a spot in the tournament later this month in Ruston.

The four game series begins Friday at 2:00 ET, continues with a double-header (7 innings) on Saturday starting at 2:00 ET, and concludes with a 1:00 ET start on Sunday. All games of the series will be on CUSA.TV.

This will also be somewhat of a Homecoming for 49er Senior Craig Keuchel, who is from Conroe, Texas.

For a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the match-up this coming weekend, let’s take a look at where these teams sit in these Conference USA stats:

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