Sideline views: key defensive plays ignite 49ers victory
The Charlotte 49ers baseball team moved to 2–0 on the young season after routing the West Virginia Mountaineers 13–2 on Saturday.
Nichting’s defense provides spark
T.J. Nichting’s right arm took away any momentum the Mountaineers had early on thanks in part to his role in two key plays.
The first big play from the senior came in the top of the third inning. Trailing 1–0, the Mountaineers managed to get runners on first and second with two outs.
Mountaineers sophomore right fielder Darius Hill hit a hard liner down the right field line which scored the runner from second. On the relay, Nichting threw a laser to junior second baseman Brett Netzer, who flung it to home plate and 49ers sophomore catcher Harris Yett tagged the go ahead runner out to keep the score tied at one.
“That was a big momentum swing,” 49ers redshirt sophomore Jackson Mims said afterwards. “Even though they scored a run, we kept the ball game tied. That was a huge play.”
In the top of the fourth, the Mountaineers had runners on second and third with no outs. 49ers starting pitcher Josh Maciejewski got the first out of the inning by striking out Mountaineers sophomore third baseman Austin Cole.
Maciejewski got the next Mountaineers batter to pop a ball up to right field where Nichting secured the second out. He threw a dart to Yett, who again tagged the go ahead runner out at the plate and more importantly ended the inning on a backbreaking double play for the Mountaineers.
“We’ve been playing great defense these two games,” Nichting said afterwards. “I think that’s really been winning some games. I know we got 13 runs, but playing defense is big. It keeps the momentum.”
For the Mountaineers, it all but ended any positive momentum they accumulated.
Mims hot start continues
49ers redshirt sophomore Jackson Mims continued his torrid start to the season against the Mountaineers on Saturday. Mims went 2-for-4 and more importantly he ignited the 49ers fourth inning.
Mims launched his first college home run, a solo shot to left-center on a 2–1 pitch off Mountaineers starting pitcher Michael Grove, to break the one all tie. That at-bat was a far cry from his first attempt, where he struck out but reached base thanks to a wild pitch.
“The previous at-bat, I looked pretty bad on some breaking pitches,” Mims said. “I finally got myself a good count. He [Grove] threw a fastball middle-in. I put a good swing on it and it worked out.”
The 49ers would tack on two more runs in the frame to take a 4–1 lead after four innings.
Sixth and seventh inning surge salts game away
The 49ers biggest offensive outings of the day came in the sixth and seventh inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, they quickly got men on first and second. Junior shortstop Hunter Jones laid down a bunt. Mountaineers relief pitcher Braden Zabrinsky grabbed the ball and turned to throw to second. However, the ball went over the second baseman’s head and the bases were loaded.
However, 49ers Head Coach Loren Hibbs felt that fielders interference prevented a run from crossing. Hibbs presented his case to umpires and after a short conference, they determined that interference did not occur.
Ultimately, that would not matter. Sophomore Reece Hampton and Netzer would reach on fielders choices on the next two at-bats, which brought home two runs to make it 6–1.
The big play of the sixth inning would be provided on the next at-bat from senior first baseman Logan Sherer, a two-run first pitch homer that made it 8–1.
However, the 49ers would top their sixth inning production with a five run seventh inning. All five of the 49ers runs were scored with two outs.
Netzer got the run party started with a two-run double to left field, which made it 10–2 49ers. On the next at-bat, Sherer scored Netzer on a single to left field to make it 11–2.
Then, Nichting made his presence felt again, this time with his left arm. Nichting launched a 3–1 pitch down the right field line off the foul pole to make it 13–2, which would be the final score.
“We put some really good swings on there in the sixth and seventh innings,” Hibbs said afterwards. “I’m proud of what we did once they went to the bullpen because that’s what we need to do. We need to really stay focused and really have good at-bats and we did that in the sixth and seventh innings.”