With the academic year getting underway, the Niners released their 2021 Baseball roster over Labor Day Weekend. We may wear green tinted glasses from time to time, but we are not going to lie… this roster is LOADED. With the guys that are returning and the recruiting class coming in, there is lots to be excited about for 49er fans. Over the next 45 says the Niners will have roughly 18 fall scrimmages mixed in among team practices.
There are many of factors affecting college baseball rosters for the 2021 season and we will see the effects for years to come. The NCAA granted all players including Seniors from 2020 with an additional year of eligibility due to the virus-shortened season. The MLB Draft was also shortened from 40 Rounds to only five. Many of the roster restrictions in college baseball were lifted for the 2021 season in order to help accommodate the larger rosters throughout the country. All of this adds up to what may be the most unique season in college baseball history.
Here is our first overall look at the 2021 49ers Baseball Roster. We will start by taking a look at the position players and then move on to the pitching staff.
Behind the plate, the Niners return juniors Jacob Whitley and Craig Keuchel. These two split time behind the plate in 2020 as Whitley started 11 games and Keuchel six. Whitley had a double and 5 RBI in 2020. He spent the summer playing with the Mooresville Spinners in the SCBL.
Keuchel spent the majority of his time in RF during 2020 season leading the Niners in HR (4) and RBI (15). Over the summer Keuchel won the Metro Summer League Tournament MVP playing for the Texas Toros.
The Niners have added three additional catchers to the roster with newcomers Aaron McKeithan, Martin Zelenka, and Tyler Cotten.
McKeithan, a sophomore, comes to Charlotte after batting .289 with 2 HR, and 14 RBI for State College of Florida in 2020. Prior to that, McKeithan started 6 games in the 2019 season for Tulane. He spent this past summer playing in the SCBL for the Carolina Vipers under former Niner Aaron Bray.
Freshman Martin Zelenka comes to Charlotte from Prague, Czech Republic. He spent time playing in the triangle as part of the International program through Purpose Driven Baseball and Pro5 Academy.
Another freshman Catcher, Tyler Cotten, comes to Charlotte from Yorktown, VA (Grafton HS). He spent the summer playing for the Tuckahoe Tigers in the Piedmont Collegiate League.
Charlotte returns three infielders from the 2020 season with seniors Carson Johnson, Rafi Vazquez, and freshman David McCabe.
Johnson started at 2B for the Niners in both 2019 and the shortened 2020 season. In his 70 games played as a Niner, Johnson is batting .309/.363/.394 and has scored 47 Runs. He spent the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
Vazquez has been the 49ers primary DH over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, also seeing time at 1B. In 2019 he led the 49ers with 12 HRs & 45 RBI. Over his 49ers career he is slashing .281/.494/.373 with 57 RBI.
McCabe saw time at 3B, SS, and 1B in the shortened 2020 season. He batted .238 with 3 doubles and was named a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American.
The Niners have three sophomores and five freshman infielders that have been added to the roster this season.
Sophomore infielder Austin Knight transfers to Charlotte from Tennessee. Knight played in 25 games as a Volunteer. He spent the Summer playing SS for the Bradenton Mafia in the Florida Gulf Coast Collegiate League, and was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. He received an NCAA waiver to be eligible immediately.
Incoming sophomore Jack Dragum comes to Charlotte after spending the 2020 season at Louisburg College. He led the Hurricanes in BA (.431) and HR (6), while driving in 20 runs through 19 games. Dragum is a 2-way guy and could see time on the mound. He was named 2nd Team Coastal Plain League as a relief pitcher this summer where he played with the Pennisula Pilots. He spent the 2019 season at Virginia where he played 2B during his freshman season.
Another incoming sophomore infielder, Thomas Caufield, comes to Charlotte after spending the 2020 season at Pitt CC. He scored 11 Runs and batted .243 in 20 games in 2020. Prior to 2020, Caufield played for Coach Woodard at UNC in 2019 and batted .286 in 13 Games for the Tarheels.
Freshman Dante Defranco comes to Charlotte from Hillsboro, NC where he played for Pro5 Academy, Orange HS, and Cedar Ridge HS. He batted .425 with 29 RBI in his last season at OHS and also played WR for the Panthers football team.
Freshman Chandler Riley comes to Charlotte from nearby Cox Mill HS in Concord, NC. Riley is the 3rd rated SS in the state of NC according to Prep Baseball Report. He got a jump on playing college baseball by playing for the Carolina Vipers in the SCBL this summer under former 49er Aaron Bray. (We witnessed him hit a walk-off RBI single in the SCBL Playoffs. See the video here.)
Freshman Gino Groover was rated as the 187th best prospect by MLB leading up to the 2020 MLB Draft. After having opportunities offered in professional baseball, Groover makes his way to Charlotte from the Walker School in Marietta, GA.
Freshman Nate Furman comes to Charlotte from Monsignor Bonner HS in Brookhaven, PA. Furman spent the Summer playing college baseball in the SCBL for the Concord A’s. He finished 3rd in the league with a .321 Average and 2nd in Runs scored with 24. (*according to SCBL site)
Recent transfer, Will Butcher is listed as a first baseman on the roster. He spent his freshman season at NC State but did not play in the shortened 2020 season. Prior to NC State Butcher played at TC Roberson where he was an All-American in 2019. HS teammates with incoming catcher Aaron McKeithan. Butcher also received an NCAA waiver to be eligible immediately.
In addition to previously mentioned Craig Keuchel, the Niners return two additional starters from the 2020 team in the outfield.
Senior Todd Elwood returns after starting 2020 and the majority of the 2019 season in CF. The lefty led the Niners in BA in 2019 (.333) and was the first 49er to be honored with a ‘Gold Standard Locker’ by the 49er Coaching staff. Finished 3rd in Hits and 2nd in Runs scored for the Niners in 2020.
Returning freshman Dominic Pilolli made a big first impression in his first year as a 49er. Pilolli was named the Team MVP for the 2020 Season after slashing .403/.567/.481 with 2 HR and 14 RBI. He was also named the Most Impressive Freshman by D1 Baseball and Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Two sophomores and one freshman outfielder have been added to the roster. Parker Stinnett comes to Charlotte from Walters State where he batted .397 and scored 24 runs in 23 games last season. Niner fans may remember Stinnett from the fall exhibition at the Hayes last year where he drove in 2 key runs for Walters State.
Another sophomore newcomer in the outfield is Hunter Baker from Florence Darlington Tech. Baker was named a NJCAA All American following the 2019 season at FloDar and was the #65 rated JUCO prospect according to Prep Baseball Report. Baker attended Hough HS in nearby Cornelius and played at NC State before transferring to FloDar. He played for former 49er Aaron Bray this summer in the SCBL for the Carolina Vipers.
Incoming freshman Jake Cunningham comes to Charlotte from nearby Ardrey-Kell HS. Cunningham was rated the 9th best outfielder in the 2020 class from NC by Perfect Game.
The Niners will have a full stable of arms in 2021. Charlotte returns 12 pitchers from last year’s roster and will add 14 pitchers from the recruiting class.
Returning senior RHP Ryan Czantskowski was a weekend starter in 2019 and 2020 for the Niners. He struck out 20 in 4 starts last season and had 1-1 record with a 4.07 ERA. Ryan was the 2nd player to be honored with the “Gold Standard Locker” by the coaching staff.
Another senior returning for the Niners is RHP Colby Bruce. Unfortunately, Colby recently underwent a procedure on his arm and will miss Fall practice while he recovers. Last season he was a pre-season All-C-USA Reliever and was on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List.
Reliever Nick Turnbull will also return for the Niners in 2021. The senior RHP had 13 Ks in 10. IP last season.
Four juniors will return for the Niners this season. RHP Matt Brooks will look forward to being back on the mound after missing the 2020 season recovering from shoulder surgery. In 2019, Brooks was off to a great start posting a 3-0 record and a 3.10 ERA in 4 starts as the Friday starter. Was the 3rd 49er to be honored with ah “Gold Standard Locker” by the coaching staff.
Junior RHP Patrick Szczypinski returns for 2021 with nearly 60 innings under his belt. He was one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen in 2019 posting a 2.56 ERA in 20 appearances. He picked up his 1st collegiate save last season.
RHP Andrew Roach was the Sunday starter for the Niners last season. In his 1st season at Charlotte he posted a record of 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA and 22 Ks. He tied for 2nd on the team in K’s and posted the lowest ERA among starters.
Junior RHP Jackson Boss pitched in 11 of the 49ers 17 games last season and subsequently led the NCAA in appearances. He struck out 16 in 17.1 IP and had a 3.63 ERA in 2020. He spent the Summer with the Carolina Vipers of the SCBL where he played for former 49er Aaron Bray.
One of three lefties on the roster, junior Trae Starnes returns for 2021. He made 2 starts and 3 relief appearances in 2020, striking out 10 in 9.1 IP.
Sophomore RHP Bryce McGowan returns in 2021 after spending 2020 as the 49ers Friday starter, grabbing 2 wins and striking out 22. The righty has 16 starts and 76.2 IP under his belt in two seasons heading into 2021.
RHP Will Palinkas returns as a Sophomore. Palinkas has experience as both a starter and a reliever over his two seasons as a Niner, starting 4 Games and coming out of the pen in 19.
Another returning sophomore RHP, Justin Offshanka made 5 appearances out of the 49er bullpen last season and struck out 11 in 7.1 IP.
The Niners will add ten more sophomore righties to the roster in 2021 with several transfers and junior college pitchers joining the fold.
Austin Marozas joins the Niners from San Jacinto College in Texas. The 6’7” power righty had interest from MLB this summer but will be pitching for the Niners in 2021 with a fastball in the upper 90s. Out of Plainfield, Illinois, he was the #2 overall ranked prospect in the state of Illinois in his HS class. Originally signed with Kentucky.
Blake Dockery, from nearby Hickory Ridge HS, joins the Niners after spending two seasons at Catawba Valley CC. He was named all Region in 2019, and was named an All American in both 2019 & 2020 by JBB. Was also named 2020 Pitcher of the Year by JBB after posting a 0.39 ERA and 31 Ks in 23 IP. Originally signed with NC State.
Andrew Lindsey brings a big arm to Charlotte from Walters State in Tennessee. Standing at 6’4” Lindsey was 4-1 in 6 starts for Walters State last season with a 1.74 ERA and 39 Ks. Prior to Walters State, Lindsey played at Waverly Central HS in New Johnsonville, TN.
Hale Sims comes to Charlotte from Logan College in Illinois. The 6’5” righty posted a 12.06 K/9 in his 2 seasons at Logan. He attended St. Mary HS in Paducah, Kentucky.
Jake Curry joins the Niners from Polk State College in Florida where he posted a 3.5 ERA in 16 starts over 2 seasons. The 6’5 RHP played HS ball at Coral Shores in Key Largo, FL.
Tyson Tucker pitched for the Northern Iowa Area CC over the past two seasons, striking out 25 in 23.1 IP over 15 appearances. He played at Maquoketa Valley HS in Dehli, Iowa.
Sam Grace comes to Charlotte after spending last season at Jefferson College. Prior to that he made 21 relief appearances at Southern Illinois as a Freshman in 2019. He was drafted out of Francis Howell North HS in the 40th Round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2018 MLB Draft. Recovered from a knee operation this summer at P3 and pitched in the CarShield Collegiate League in Missouri this summer.
At 6’7” 215. Casey Bargo brings the Niners another big righty with a fastball in the mid-90s. Bargo pitched for Lincoln Trail College in Illinois and played HS baseball at Madison Central HS in Richmond, Kentucky.
Kolton Scherbenske comes to Charlotte from Des Moines Area CC. Last season he started 4 games and posted a 3.63 ERA and led the team with 24 K. Scherbenske played his HS baseball at Saint Thomas More HS in Rapid, City, South Dakota.
RHP Zach Zedalis joined the Niners roster after transferring from NC Central. In his Freshman season he made 1 start and 6 relief appearances for the Eagles, striking out 8. Zedalis played his HS baseball at nearby Cox Mill HS in Concord. Zedalis spent this past Summer with the Carolina Vipers and Coach Aaron Bray.
The Niners will have one returning freshman pitcher in LHP Christian Lothes. Lothes pitched 2.2 innings of perfect relief in the opening weekend of 2020 striking out 3. Unfortunately, he missed the rest of the shortened season with an abdominal injury. His fastball was hitting in the mid-90s during the fall and pre-season last year.
Another freshman with some college pitching experience is RHP Dillon Phillips. Phillips comes to Charlotte from Walters State in Tennessee. He had a 3-1 record in 6 starts last season, including 29 Ks in 23.1 IP. He attended RS Central HS in Mooresboro, NC.
There are three true freshman pitchers on the 49ers roster coming from the HS ranks this season. One of only three lefties on the staff is freshman Spencer Giesting. Giesting was 4-2 with a 1.49 ERA in 2019 with 48 strikeouts in 42.1 innings for Badin HS in Ohio. Head Coach was 49er great Brion Treadway.
RHP Gus Hughes comes to Charlotte from Grimsley HS in Greensboro. Hughes was rated the 7th best RHP in the 2020 class from NC (15th Overall) by Perfect Game with a fastball around 90.
Another freshman RHP beginning his career at Charlotte is Tyler Parks from Gloucester Catholic HS in Sicklerville, New Jersey. One of the top 15 RHP’s from NJ in the 2020 class with a fastball sitting around 90.
There you have it. Team practice starts on September 18 and we look forward to seeing seeing all these guys compete this Fall. We will be sure to keep you updated on what we see in the Fall at the Hayes!! Go Niners!!