Thursday, May 31, 2007

49ers braced for NCAA baseball tourny

COLUMBIA -- Already a season to remember, I get the feeling the Charlotte 49ers' baseball team is on the verge of something even more special this season.
I'm all set up in downtown Columbia for this weekend's NCAA baseball regional featuring the host Gamecocks, N.C. State, Charlotte and Wofford. One by one the pieces appear to be falling into place to allow the 49ers the chance to leave this regional as the champion.
N.C. State now looks like it without pitching ace Andrew Brackman this season, who likely would have gone up against the 49ers in Friday's first game. Brackman's ex-girlfriend died in a car accident on May 18 and he did not make his scheduled start in the ACC tournament. While still dealing the loss he also has an enflamed elbow and isn't likely to make a start this weekend.
South Carolina has its own problems. Coach Ray Tanner was forced to suspend two players earlier this week following their arrest on charges of allegedly stealing electronic equipment. In addition, talented third baseman James Darnell is battling a back injury and may not play.
That leaves Wofford, who is the only team in the regional with a losing record and lost twice handily to South Carolina during the regular season. The Terriers, however, won five straight games in the Southern Conference tournament to earn the NCAA berth, a feat in itself.
And with Charlotte's bats heating up in last weekend's Atlantic 10 conference tournament and the continued steady presence of pitchers Adam Mills, Spencer Steedley and Zach Rosenbaum, the 49ers have the potential to make a lot of noise here.
Charlotte may be still looking for its first NCAA tournament win, but this team appears unlikely to settle for just one or two or just "happy to be there." -- Jim Utter

Monday, May 14, 2007

Niners open with Yellow Jackets in Paradise Jam

It's three guaranteed games against the ACC next season and counting for the Charlotte 49ers.

Officials with the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands released the bracket for their November eight-team tournament on Monday which features a matchup between the 49ers and Georgia Tech to kick off the four-day event.

Charlotte already has two home games on the 2007-2008 schedule, facing Wake Forest and Maryland at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. The 49ers are also close to securing a fourth game against an ACC foe, which would be part of a home-and-home series. The first game would be played at the opponent's home court, the return game at Halton Arena.

The Paradise Jam tournament will be played Nov. 16-19 at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

On Nov. 16, Charlotte plays Georgia Tech in Game 1 at 1 p.m. Eastern; Illinois-Chicago plays Winthrop at 3:30 p.m. in Game 2; Baylor faces Wichita State at 6 p.m. in Game 3; and Monmouth (N.J.) plays Notre Dame at 8:30 p.m. in Game 4.

On Nov. 17, the losers of Games 1 and 2 meet at 6 p.m. and the losers of Games 3 and 4 meet at 8:30 p.m. On Nov. 18, the winners of Games 1 and 2 meet at 6 p.m. and the winners of Games 3 and 4 meet at 8:30 p.m.

The championship is 8:30 p.m. Nov. 19. Also on that day the seventh-place game is 1 p.m.; the fourth place game is 3:30 p.m.; and the third-place game is 6 p.m.
IN OTHER NEWS: Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball coach Karen Aston has added South Carolina assistant coach Ken Griffin to her staff as an assistant coach.

Griffin has spent the past two seasons as assistant South Carolina, during which the Gamecocks won 35 games and made two WNIT appearances, including advancing to the third round last season. At South Carolina, he worked primarily with post players.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lutz assistant, Chris Cheeks, not leaving

The Charlotte 49ers appear to have withstood an effort by South Florida coach Stan Heath to lure away one of Bobby Lutz's assistants.
Chris Cheeks, who just completed his first season as an assistant to Lutz, interviewed for an assistant position with Heath, who took over the South Florida program when coach Robert McCullum was fired. South Florida is a member of the Big East.
Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose confirmed Cheeks interviewed for the position, and late Friday Lutz said he had been informed by Cheeks that he had withdrawn his name from consideration for the South Florida job.
Cheeks has been a tireless recruiter this season and has played instrumental roles in the recruitment in the past year of newcomers Phil Jones and Javarris Barnett, who both begin play with the 49ers next season.
Prior to joining Charlotte, Cheeks spent three years as an assistant coach at Georgia State. Prior to that, he was an assistant at West Virginia for two years and at his alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth, for five years. -- Jim Utter

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Niners may play 4 ACC schools in hoops

The Charlotte 49ers could have the opportunity to play as many as four ACC schools next season.
Charlotte is already assured of two home games next season with Maryland and Wake Forest, with those games being played at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
The 49ers also have the chance to play Georgia Tech, as both teams are scheduled in the eight-team Paradise Jams tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands in November. The schedule for that tournament has not been set.
In the meantime, Charlotte is in the final stages of securing a home and away series with yet another ACC school, with the road game starting next season, sources confirm. And the ACC school has agreed to play the return game at Halton Arena.
Who is the fourth ACC school? I can't say yet but I offer one hint: This school has won a national championship in men's basketball.
So let the guessing begin. -- Jim Utter

UPDATE: The deal is still not yet done, but unfortunately I provided a slightly inaccurate clue as to the name of this school. My original clue was that the school has won an NCAA championship in men's basketball. Actually the school has won an NCAA championship, but not necessarily in men's basketball. Sorry for the confusion. There should be an answer soon.
Also, the pairings for the Paradise Jams tournament are expected any day. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

New womens coach has first recruit

New Charlotte 49ers women's basketball coach Karen Aston doesn't have a full staff yet, but she does have her first recruit.
Aston has signed 5-foot-10 guard Shannon McCallum, who played this season at Lenoir's Patterson School, to a national letter of intent.
McCallum is no stranger to North Carolina. Before attending the prep school, McCallum starred at Whiteville High in Columbus County and was three-time county player of the year. As a senior, she led her team to a 25-1 record and lost in the N.C. 2A Eastern regional final.
While at Patterson this past season, McCallum averaged 25 points and six rebounds per game.
"Everything about her will excite 'Niner Nation.' She loves the game, has an up-tempo game and fits right into our style of play," Aston said. "She is a gym rat that loves playing and watching basketball.
"She has also shown her commitment in the classroom and has done the necessary work to get to this point in her career."
McCallum and fellow freshman Brittany Carter, an all-state forward from Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, will join 12 returning players next season. -- Jim Utter

Thursday, May 3, 2007

'Other' sports deserve praise

While many Charlotte 49ers fans wait patiently for the next basketball season, Charlotte's spring sports have been collecting an impressive list of accomplishments this year.

The men's tennis team earned its first NCAA invite and will play at Wake Forest in the tournament's first round on May 11. The next week, Charlotte men's player Roy Sichel will start play in the NCAA individual tennis tournament at Georgia.

Charlotte's golf team, ranked No. 21 nationally by Golfstat, opens play Friday in the Atlantic 10 tournament in Winter Haven, Fla., trying to capture its second consecutive conference title and third straight NCAA bid.

Perhaps the team drawing the biggest attention is baseball, which opened a new stadium this season. The 49ers are 35-9 and in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10. Charlotte features a superb pitcher in senior Adam Mills and several other talented players.

In this week's baseball power rankings at, Mills is ranked the ninth-best Division I college pitcher in the country while catcher Kris Rochelle is ranked ninth-best nationally among catchers.

Baseball still has one three-game home series remaining this season. Charlotte hosts A10 member St. Bonaventure May 11-13 at Hayes Stadium.

In baseball alumni news, former Charlotte pitcher John Maine was voted National League Pitcher of the Month for April. He finished the opening month 4-0 with an ERA of 1.35, which leads the major leagues. On a related note, Charlotte baseball currently leads the NCAA in team ERA as well.