The 2012 college baseball season was very un-Charlotte 49ers-like.
Usually a contender in the Atlantic 10 and a regular participant in the NCAA tournament, Charlotte slumped to 21-32 in 2012, finishing 10th in the conference and not even qualifying for the league’s tournament.
“We pride on ourselves on being able to grind through things,” Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t do that last season.”
So, as the 49ers prepare for their final season in the Atlantic 10 – opening with a weekend series Friday against Delaware State at Hayes Stadium – a new feeling has permeated the program.
“We’re more on edge around here,” Hibbs said. “That’s what we’re going to need to get back to, so we can play on the level that we’ve been accustomed to.”
Gone are longtime stalwarts Shane Brown, an outfielder who won last season’s Atlantic 10 batting crown, and pitcher Andrew Smith, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
But Hibbs has seven position players returning for a team that is a preseason pick to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10, including all-conference second-team third baseman Shane Basen (.327, 45 RBIs in ’12), shortstop Justin Roland (.306, 18 RBIs) and outfielder Tony Montalbano (.291).
Junior right-hander Tyler Barnette, who struggled with injuries last season after a strong freshman year, anchors the pitching staff.
Top newcomers include infielder Matt Creech of Moultrie, Ga., outfielder/catcher Nicholas Daddio (Hough High) and infielder/catcher Brett Lang (Ardrey Kell).
The 49ers got an off-season boost by sharing the Charlotte football team’s new, state-of-the-art weight room.
“Tremendous,” Hibbs said. “The benefits of that are going to be huge for us.”
The 49ers have won four Atlantic 10 titles and hope for one more before they head off to Conference USA in 2013-14. But they have motivation beyond that to qualify for the seven-team league tournament in May:
It’s being held at the 49ers’ own Hayes Stadium.