Photo credit: Charlotte Baseball Twitter
Coming off a midweek loss at Clemson, the Niners look to win their second weekend series of the year as they continue their difficult non-conference schedule. Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium will host the first ever meeting between the two schools, as well as the first time Charlotte has played Army or any service academy at all. Army started off their season with a series win over Air Force but didn’t play a mid-week game. For the second straight week, Charlotte will face a team expected to repeat as conference champions, Army will go for its 5th straight.
Who to Look Out For
Perhaps the biggest piece of an Army lineup, that is solid throughout, is 3rd baseman Sam Ruta. Ruta seemingly couldn’t get out a year ago as he hit .390, with an on-base percentage of almost .500. In the only series thus far, Ruta hasn’t yet reached the numbers of last season, but certainly made an impact and will be one to keep an eye on.
Army will likely go with junior right hander Tanner Gresham on the bump to start things off Friday afternoon. The Charlotte native earned a First Team All-Patriot selection as a sophomore with an ERA of 2.59 and led the team with saves. Last week Gresham went 4 innings on 5 K’s and 3 walks, he gave up 2 earned runs before he gave way to Robbie Buecker who got the win. It will be interesting to see how far Gresham goes as he continues to adjust in a starter’s role.
Another notable name in this series is head coach Chris Tracz. Tracz was hired last July after the conclusion of last season, and after former head coach Jim Foster took the job at Northwestern. He’ll look to uphold the national relevancy his Army program has had in recent years in his first with the Black Knights.
Speaking of Knights, Austin Knight has returned to All-American form and has been any pitcher’s nightmare so far. No pun intended. Knight sits at a .400 batting average right now, leading the next best Niner hitter Kaden Hopson at .364. Knight will be the leading story of this Charlotte ballclub as the rest of the lineup has struggled to get going, including the likes of All Conference Cam Fisher and Jack Dragum. Charlotte will look to get the bats hot to take their second series win of the year against another quality baseball team.
First pitch is slated for 4:00pm Friday afternoon on ESPN+. Saturday and Sunday games will be on CUSA.TV at 2:00pm and 1:00pm respectively.