With the exception of three games that are all within a two-hour drive of the UNC Charlotte campus, the 49ers softball team’s nonconference schedule looks like one long homestand.
That’s because about 10 years ago Charlotte coach Aimee DeVos realized that the 49ers could reap all the benefits of playing in early-season tournaments by hosting their own.
So, over the course of three February weekends this season, Charlotte scheduled 13 games against a minimum of seven teams, with all of the contests being played within the friendly confines of the 49ers’ Phillips Softball Complex.
Charlotte is scheduled to conclude its three-team Green and White tournament Feb. 23 with games against Robert Morris (2 p.m.) and Cleveland State (4 p.m.).
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Charlotte hosts the 49er Invite Feb. 28-March 2, with Georgetown, Liberty and Stony Brook visiting. A tournament the 49ers had scheduled for Feb. 14-16 was canceled because of the weather that paralyzed the campus a few days before.
“We do have a pretty healthy travel schedule when it comes to Conference USA,” said DeVos. “Being at home helps you transition into the season. Plus, we control the schedule with who we play and at what times.”
Before adopting the mini-tournament concept, DeVos said many college programs, including Charlotte, used to compete in weekend tournaments in which dozens of teams were involved. If weather affected the schedule, those missed games were often harder to make up.
DeVos hopes her team will make up a couple of last weekend’s canceled games by turning future games on the schedule into doubleheaders. In the case of Cleveland State, one of last weekend’s scheduled teams, it was able to regroup and visit Charlotte for the Green and White tournament.
Hosting your own tournament requires a little more work, especially in terms of being a hospitable host to visiting teams and field maintenance. At next weekend’s 49er Invite, for example, the Phillips Softball Complex field will host 10 games in a three-day span.
Out of the 49ers’ first 18 scheduled games, 15 are home. DeVos says other programs in the region such as N.C. State, USC Upstate, and Elon have gotten in the habit of hosting early season tournaments.
Despite the region’s recent wintry weather, northern teams enjoy the opportunity to escape their harsh climates for the normal warmer climes of the south. Seton Hall (N.J.), Drexel (Pa.), and St. Frances (Pa.) have been regular visitors to Charlotte.
Junior pitcher Lexi Betancourt is happy that her family from Garner has more opportunities to see her play. As a pitcher, she also likes being able to throw from her home circle often.
“We all enjoy the travel aspect,” she said, “but it’s tiring on the body to have go to airport, find your plane, get off the plane and play. It’s so much easier to wake up in your own bed and go to your own fieldhouse and do things at your own pace.”
Hammonds is assist leader
Concord High graduate Ny Hammonds became the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team’s all-time career assist leader in a Feb. 15 game at Marshall. The senior had six assists in the 49ers 71-69 loss to the Thundering Herd, giving her 448 for her career. Hammonds broke the record set by Markita Aldridge who played at Charlotte in 1992 and from 1994-96.
Indoor track wins events
Several 49er indoor track and field athletes finished first in their events at the JDL UCS Invitational Feb. 15 in Winston-Salem. Redshirt senior Kevin Calhoun set a men’s school record with a pole vault of 16 feet, 7 inches. Freshman Brittany Plummer won the women’s pole vault with a height of 10 feet, 11.75 inches.
Sophomore Chris Tate won the men’s 400 meters and junior Anthony Bynum placed first in the 60-meter dash.