Analysis: Scouting the Charlotte 49ers
Earlier this week on GamecockAnthem Radio, I made the point that Gamecock fans should pull for N.C. State against Charlotte even though the Wolfpack are the #2 seed. If you were at Game 1 of the Columbia Regional today, you saw why.
Charlotte is one of, if not the best #3 seed in the NCAA bracket. They have a very strong starting pitching rotation and are balanced throughout the lineup at the plate. Saturday night, the Gamecocks will have their hands full.
The 49ers present quite a few match-up problems for South Carolina, and it starts on the mound. They will start senior left hander Spencer Steedley against the Gamecocks on Saturday, and yes, that is the same guy who hit the two run HR for Charlotte on Friday. Opponents are hitting just .199 off Steedley, who has 88 strikeouts to go along with his 8-1 record. Steedley throws hard and has a good off speed pitch to complement it.
The Gamecocks have been successful at times against lefties this season, but have also seen their share of struggles. USC will need to score quickly to expose the "unknown" Charlotte bullpen. While talking to a lot of their fans on Friday, not one seemed very confident in their bullpen.
Charlotte also likes to run the bases, and they do it well. They have 75 stolen bases as a team and four guys have 11 or more. Brad McElroy is a perfect 14-14 and leads the team with a .406 batting average. Cory Lane leads the team with 18.
Having left hander Arik Hempy on the mound for the Gamecocks will help hold the runners close. N.C. State had a lefty on the mound, and the 49ers were 1-2 trying to steal.
Although Steedley hit a HR Friday, the 49ers only have 33 as a team all year. Small ball is their game, and they do it very well. It will be crucial not only for USC to get ahead early to take the 49ers out of their game, but also for Hempy to get the leadoff man out each inning. This will allow Charlotte to take fewer chances and always be a double play away from ending an inning.
Catcher Kris Rochelle is their hottest hitter right now, raising his average to .400 after Friday's win. The senior right handed hitter reached base five times and is the team leader with a .502 on base percentage.
The 49ers are very balanced and will be a real challenge for South Carolina. Saturday night's game promises to be a good one.
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