CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After an exciting fall season, the Charlotte softball team will open its 2013 campaign on Friday, Feb. 8 by hosting the First Pitch Classic at the D.L. Phillips Complex. The 49ers take on Wisconsin at 1 p.m. 

Back in the fall, the 49ers had an opportunity to see what the 2013 team had in store for the spring season. The Niners went 7-1 and displayed an all-around performance on offense and defense. The return of Charlotte’s seasoned veterans, along with its talented newcomers is a mixture that’s bound for success in 2013.

Charlotte finished the 2012 season with a 29-26 record and a 10-10 mark in the Atlantic 10. The Niners finished fifth in the conference but are looking forward to improving for the 2013 season.

Head coach Aimee DeVos is in the realm of her 19th season at Charlotte. Over her tenure, DeVos has seen many personalities, players, and teams but knows that each season brings something different than the previous one. 

“I think the one thing that is different about this season is that for the first time in a long time, we return a very strong group offensively,” said DeVos. “We added some offensive support in some new players but it’s great to know that all of our top hitters, run producers, and power hitters are all back. It’s a benefit and it gives us the confidence of knowing that we are a team that is capable of scoring runs.”

Senior Briana Gwaltney led the Niners in almost every offensive category in 2012. She broke the Charlotte single-season (14) and career records (28) for home runs and led the team in runs scored (39), hits (52), home runs (14), RBIs (40), total bases (104), and slugging percentage (.608). Gwaltney was an Atlantic 10 First Team All-Conference selection and member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Mid-Atlantic Region Second Team.

However the 49ers return Alex Rogers, a member of the 2012 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team, who led Charlotte with a .313 batting average and recorded 52 hits. The Niners expect to see more offensive production from Kalie Lang, Jessie Fennell, Samantha Slade, Chelsea Lisikatos, Chelsea Stamey, and Chelsea Ingersoll who all played big roles last season. Natalie Capone was also turning in a solid performance for the Niners until an injury resulted in her missing a portion of the season. 

Freshman Jessica Plemmons, a left-hand power hitter had a breakout fall season where she exploded offensively, giving the Niners more depth in their lineup for the 2013 campaign. Rookie Courtney Carroll adds versatility for Charlotte, proving that she can play in both the infield and outfield. 

Defensively, Charlotte’s experienced pitching rotation includes Katie Watkins and Lexi Betancourt. The duo combined for 257 strikeouts last season. Betancourt finished the season with 15 wins and three shutouts, and earned a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie team. Watkins appeared in 30 games and tallied 13 wins. Liskatos also saw action in the circle in 2012, appearing in 17 games.

“We know that we aren’t going to live by the strikeout,” DeVos said. We’re going to have to make plays and get outs. Fortunately, we have an incredible defense that is very athletic and works really well together. They communicate great and seem to be really in tune with each other.” 

Charlotte’s tough non-conference schedule which includes Top 100 teams like Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Auburn, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, and Minnesota will allow it to face some major competition before heading into A-10 play on March 22. 

“We need to see that pitching and teams that can offensively explode to put our game at the highest level,” DeVos explained. “But we have a solid team as well and we had a good year last year, but I think we’re capable of having a great year this year.”

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