With week one in the books, the Diamond Niners find themselves 3-0 on the young season after sweeping the Delaware Blue Hens.
Keys to the Week
Loren Hibbs – Coach Hibbs notched career wins 799 & 800 on Friday. It is no surprise that Hibbs deflected much of the credit for the achievement to the many players and coaches that he has worked with during his 27 years on campus. Still, this is a big deal and he has a right to be proud. Congratulations, Coach.
Starting Rotation – A big question coming into the season was who would the staff send to the mound opening weekend. It was not surprise to see Jr RHP Matt Brooks (6.2 IP, 7H, 2ER, 6K, 2BB, W) get the ball on Friday. After a rough first inning, Brooks settled in looked more than capable of leading the staff as the go-to Friday guy. Sr LHP Joey Cooner (3.2, 5H, 1ER, 2K, 1BB) started game to of the DH on Friday and did a solid job before giving way to the pen. Fr
RHP Will Palinkas (4.1 IP, 3H, 2ER, 7K, 3BB) came out firing on Saturday. The rookie racked up 3Ks in the first inning on his way to a good start to his collegiate career.
Options – What this team has that others have lacked in the past is options at multiple spots around the diamond. Third base, first base, right field, and DH shifted this weekend depending on starting matchups. Fr Josh Haney (3B), Sr Jesse Gonzales (1B), and Jr Todd Elwood (DH) appeared in the lineup to face the right handed starters from Delaware. Elwood started t DH in Game 3. Sophomores Tate Pennington (3B) and Jake Whitcomb (RF) got the nod against Delaware’s lefty starter in Game 2. Dominick Cammarata shifted from RF to 1B against the LH starting pitcher. Rafi moved from DH in the 1st 2 games to playing 1B in the series finale. As you can see there are lots of moving pieces in the line-up and defensively.
Defense – The Niners only made 1 error on the weekend, turned a few big double plays, and Yett threw out 2 runners at second. Patrick Wheeler made some nice plays in CF saving runs. Solid defensive performance overall.
Offense – To the team’s credit, they ground out 3 wins for the weekend. When hits were needed, they came though in the clutch. However, the boys will be looking to knock some rust off going forward and get the bats going after totally 20 hits for the series.
Players of the Week
Offense – Rafi Vasquez (.500, 5H, 3R, HR, 2 RBI). Honorable mention to Harris Yett (3 hits, HR, 2 RBI), Tommy Bullock (.300, 3H, 2R, 2B, 2 RBI). Rafi gave fans a glimpse of what he is capable of with a towering HR to the opposite field on Friday. Word is the ball that Yett crushed to left field on Saturday wound up in Toby Creek.
Pitching – Colby Bruce (4.2 IP, 0ER, 2H, 3Ks, SV) This was a tough choice between Bruce and Chase Gooding (2 IP, 1H, 3K, 0ER, 2 SV), but Bruce got the nod this week due to his gutty performance on Friday where he appeared in both games of the double header.
The Week Ahead
The Niners have 5 games coming up this week.
Clemson – The game at Clemson on Tuesday has been moved up to Monday at 4 PM due to impending weather. The Tigers were ranked 19th in the preseason coaches poll and picked to finish 3rd in the ACC’s Atlantic division. The Tiger are 2-1 after their series with South Alabama this past weekend. The Tigers’ key player is All-American SS Logan Davidson, of Providence HS in Charlotte. There’s a deeper connection here, as Logan’s father, Mark Davidson, was a part of the original 49ers squad before transferring to Clemson and going on to a career in MLB.
Canisius – The Golden Griffs will come to Charlotte for 4 games this weekend after dropping 2 of 3 to NC Central last weekend. An NCAA team a year ago, they are picked to finish 1st in the MAAC again this season. They are led by preseason all-conference picks SS Connor Morro and OF Mark McKenna.
The league opened up with a 25-11 mark this weekend. Southern Miss carried the banner for the league by sweeping Big 10 foe Purdue. Rice opened the Matt Bragga era by taking 2 of 3 from our old A-10 conference mates, Rhode Island. ODU dropped 2 of 3 to Big South opponent High Point. It will be a few more weeks before we get a more accurate reading on what the league’s strength of schedule may look like. Not a terrible start overall.