Four Straight C-USA Series Wins– We are halfway through the 8 weekend Conference USA schedule and the 49ers are 14-2 in conference with 4 consecutive series wins. The 49ers only 2 losses have come in extra innings and they have identical 7-1 records at home and on the road in conference. Along the way, the Niners won 11 straight to tie a school record.
Sweeping the Sunshine State – For the second consecutive weekend the Niners earned a conference sweep over a team from Florida. This time is was 4 victories over FIU in Miami. As a result, the guys are sitting atop C-USA at 11-1, 22-9 overall.
How SWEEP it Is!! — The Niners completed a 4 -game sweep over FAU at the Hayes this past weekend. It was a very exciting series that went back and forth, and the Niners coming away with four straight wins. Three of the wins were 1-run games and the two Saturday games both featured 49er walk-offs.
It was an up and down week for the Niners as they went 1-3 on the week. After a dominating 9-0 victory over 14th ranked Tennessee on Tuesday, Charlotte dropped three highly contested games at #13 East Carolina over the weekend. The Niners now sit at 8-6 after 4 weeks of the 2021 baseball season and their current RPI is 42 with Conference USA play starting next weekend.
The Niners stayed hot by sweeping the William & Mary Tribe over the weekend by a combined score of 31-5. No need to adjust your computer monitors, folks. This is not a post about the 1998 team, this is 2021. The schedule gets incrementally tougher over the next few weeks, but so far it’s hard to critique anything about the start to the season. Things are clicking in all phases of the game right now.
We are going to try a little something new this year to make more use of this blog. Every week we will provide you a wrap of the week and a few nuggets about the team. We will also track Conference USA and how our non-conference opponents are doing.
In the third piece of our 2021 Charlotte Baseball season preview, we will discuss the pitching staff. Before we get into talking about the pitchers on this 49er staff, it is important to note that there was a change to Charlotte Coaching staff over the offseason. In November, Coach John Stott took a position with the Chicago White Sox organization as an Area Scout. That left an opening in the staff for a new Volunteer Assistant Coach.
In December the 49ers announced that Austin Meine would be the new Assistant Coach and Pitching Coordinator. Meine came to Charlotte from Premier Pitching Performance (P3) out of St. Louis where he was Director of Pitching and Biomechanics. He was already very familiar and close to the program due the partnership that Charlotte has had with P3 over the past year and a half.
Coach Woodard had this to say about Meine: “I believe that Coach Meine is the new wave of coach coming down the pike. He is young, hungry and fluent in utilizing all modern training techniques and technologies in player development. He has already demonstrated with our team, through our partnership with Premier Pitching Performance, that he has the skillset and the ability to communicate these methods in a simple capacity and at a high level.”
Now that we’ve learned about the new Pitching Coordinator, let’s talk about this deep and talented group of pitchers that the coaching staff has to work with.
Since Conference USA will be playing 4 game weekends, the Niners will need 4 starters on the weekends.
Sophomore RHP Andrew Lindsey (New Johnsonville, TN/Waverly Central HS/Walters State) has been named the starter for Friday’s season opener against Morehead State. A newcomer to the staff, 49ers fans may remember Lindsey from the Fall of 2019 exhibition game at the Hayes when he threw 5 shutout innings against the Niners. Lindsey is a 6’-4 strike thrower that has been up to 93 in the preseason. D1 lists him as the 12th best 2021 Draft prospect out of C-USA, so a successful season could have him hearing his name called in the Draft this summer.
Set to go Saturday is freshman LHP Christian Lothes (Hebron, OH/Lakewood HS). Unfortunately, 49er fans did not get to see much of C-Lo last spring as he only pitched 2.2 Innings due to injury. In what we saw leading up to last season from Lothes, we were very excited to see what he would contribute last season as we were going into Conference play. From all accounts, Lothes has been even more impressive this pre-season while adding strength and weight to his frame and hitting 96 on the radar gun. MLB scouts have taken notice and D1 Baseball listed him as the #2 Draft prospect out of C-USA, behind Bryce McGowan.
Speaking of McGowan, Sunday’s tilt will sport one of the more veteran pitchers on the staff in sophomore RHP Bryce McGowan (Cary, NC/Cary HS). The hard-throwing righty enters his 3rd season with the Niners and brings a wealth of experience to the table. He was a weekend starter in his freshman season here and has 16 starts under his belt. Over the offseason he has perfected a slider as his secondary pitch, and adds a change-up to the repertoire. MLB scouts have taken notice and D1 Baseball listed McGowan as the #1 2021 MLB Draft prospect in C-USA.
Once the schedule transitions to 4 game set, we expect sophomore RHP Austin Marozas (Plainfield, IL/Plainfield South HS/ San Jacinto) to complete the rotation. Marozas considered signing a pro contract this summer, but chose to sign with the 49ers instead. Austin pitched last season at the JUCO Pitching powerhouse San Jacinto College in Texas. He was one of the top high school pitchers in Illinois before having Tommy John surgery. The 6’7” righty trained at P3 and was up to 95 on his fastball this spring. Marozas was listed as the 13th best 2021 Draft prospect out of C-USA by D1 Baseball, right behind Lindsey.
There are a few other pitchers on staff that have had experience starting on the weekends including junior RHP Matt Brooks (York, PA/Spring Grove Area HS), senior RHP Ryan Czantskowski (Mountain Home, AR/Mountain Home HS/Connors State), and junior RHP Andrew Roach (Springdale AR/Springdale HS/Cowley College).
Brooks has worked his way back from shoulder surgery that ended his promising 2019 season. He has 24 starts under his belt as a 49er and a record of 13-11 over his career. It was great to see Matt back on the mound this fall after spending the summer with many 49er pitchers at P3.
Czantskowski has experience starting on the weekends with 13 career starts as a 49er. Ryan won the Coaches Award last season after going 1-1 with a 4.07 ERA & 20 Ks. He and Brooks are a big part of the veteran leadership on this staff.
Roach had arguably the best season as any 49er pitcher last season, posting a 2-2 record, and led all starters with a 1.99 ERA & a 1.10 WHIP last season.
There are a lot of new faces in the bullpen to go along with the familiar ones. How each of their roles will ultimately shake out is yet to be seen. Here’s a look at the depth fans can expect to see from the pitching staff:
• Senior RHP Colby Bruce (Charlotte/South Meck) has served as the closer over the past few seasons for the Niners earning Preseason All C-USA honors a year ago. After an offseason surgery, it is unclear if Bruce will see the mound this season as he recovers. In his absence, the Niners will have to find someone to fill that role. • One candidate that has been suggested for the closer role is newcomer Sophomore RHP Sam Grace (St Charles, MO/Francis Howell HS/Jefferson Co. CC). Grace was up to 95 in the fall and adds a nasty splitter to the repertoire. Grace was previously drafted by the Orioles out of HS in 2018. • Senior RHP Nick Turnbull (Churchville, MD/John Carroll School/Maryland) had 13 Ks in 10. IP last season. He worked out at P3 this summer as well and has improved his slider and change-up. His fastball was up to 94 with his fastball in the preseason • Junior RHP Jackson Boss (Loganville, GA/Walnut Grove HS/Young Harris) had a tremendous season as a newcomer to the staff in 2020. He finished 2nd in the NCAA in appearances, pitching in 11 of the 49ers 17 games. • Junior LHP Trae Starnes (Taylorsville, NC/Alexander Central HS/Catawba Valley CC) returns for 2021. He made 2 starts and 3 relief appearances in 2020, striking out 10 in 9.1 IP. One of 3 LHP on the roster. • Sophomore RHP Will Palinkas (Matthews/ Providence HS) has experience as both a starter and reliever over 2 seasons at Charlotte. He spent the summer working at P3 and returned to Charlotte a much stronger pitcher. Has good off-speed stuff that he is throwing for strikes. • Sophomore RHP Justin Offshanka (Huntersville/Hough HS) provides a different look out of the pen with his delivery. Staff was impressed with his improvement over the last year. He has 7 relief appearances over 2 seasons. • Sophomore RHP Hale Sims (Paducha, KY/St Mary HS/John A. Logan) was described by D1 Baseball this fall as “a 6-foot-9, 290-pound behemoth with a heavy fastball.” He’s only listed at 6’4″ but we certainly can see why he would appear larger. He brings a big, versatile arm to the staff from Logan College and touched 95 this preseason. • 6’7” Sophomore RHP Casey Bargo (Corbin, KY/Madison Central HS/Lincoln Trail) is listed as the 22nd best 2021 Draft Prospect out of C-USA according to D1 Baseball. He touched 95 with his fastball in the preseason. • Freshman RHP Dillon Phillips (Mooresboro, NC/R-S Central HS/Walters State) sits 91-93 with his fastball and will compete for high leverage innings this season. D1 Baseball lists him as the 27th best prospect in C-USA. • The coaching staff says that sophomore RHP Jake Curry (Key Largo, FL/Coral Shores HS/Polk State) has one of the best change-ups on the staff. He posted a 3.5 ERA in 16 starts at Polk State. • Sophomore RHP Tyson Tucker (Delphi, IA/Maquoketa HS/Northern Iowa Area CC) brings a toughness to the staff according to the Coaches. He pitched for Northern Iowa Area CC over the past two seasons, striking out 25 in 23.1 IP over 15 appearances • Sophomore RHP Kolton Scherbenske (Rapid City, SD/St Thomas More HS/DMACC) is the first 49er baseball player we’ve had from South Dakota. Staff says he has closer stuff and good size at 6’4”. • Freshman transfer RHP Zach Zedalis (Charlotte/Cox Mill HS/NC Central) brings intensity to the staff. Pitched at NCCU last season. Was named SCBL All League this summer pitching for the Carolina Vipers. • Freshman RHP Tyler Parks (Sicklerville, NJ/Gloucester Catholic HS) was one of the 1st players to commit to this staff. Listed as one of the top 15 RHP in NJ for the 2020 class. Sat around 90 this fall with his fastball. • Freshman LHP Spencer Giesting (Hamilton, OH/Badin HS) was impressive this fall and has a very promising role on the pitching staff being one of the few lefties. Listed as one of 20 Impact First Year Freshman in C-USA by D1 Baseball. • Freshman RHP Gus Hughes (Greensboro, NC/Grimsley HS) has one of the best curve balls on the staff. Looked impressive in the fall with his fastball around 91-92. • RHP Jack Dragum (Mechanicsville, VA/Hanover HS/Louisburg JC) is the only 2-way player on the roster. The infielder could see time out of the bullpen. He was 2nd Team All Coastal Plain League this summer as a relief pitcher.