Charlotte 49ers baseball history features eight conference championship years and five NCAA tournament appearances
By Richard Walker
UNC Charlotte was more than a century old before it added a baseball program.
But the 49ers, who moved to an on-campus stadium shortly after their birth in 1979, quickly became a championship-winner that produced professional baseball talent under four head coaches – and new coach Robert Woodard certainly hopes to add to that tradition.
Gary Bartley was the program’s inaugural coach from 1979 to 1981. He was followed by Gardner-Webb All-American baseball player Gary Robinson, a Charlotte native, who would guide the program the next 10 seasons.
And while Bartley’s 55-82 record and Robinson’s 280-244-3 record weren’t good enough to give the 49ers a championship or a NCAA appearance, they were recruiting players that drew more and more major league scouts to 49ers’ games.
From 1979 to 1992, six players in the program would eventually play in the major leagues, including 1987 World Series champion Mark Davidson and two-time All-Star Bryan Harvey.
Davidson, a 1978 graduate of Charlotte’s Garinger High School, played on the 49ers’ first two teams before transferring to Clemson. An 11th-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1982, Davidson would spend three years on the Twins roster – including the 1987 championship-winner – and three years with Houston Astros.
Harvey, a 1981 graduate of Bandys High School in Catawba County, played from 1982 to 1984 before being signed by the California Angels. Harvey would spent five years pitching for the Angels from 1987 to 1992, was an American League All-Star in 1991 and 1993 and the American League’s top reliever in 1991 before finishing his major league career with three seasons playing for the Florida Marlins from 1993 to 1995.
Jeff Johnson (1985-88 at UNCC), Chris Haney (1988-90), Stewart Cole (1985-87) and Sean Whiteside (1990-92) also would make the major leagues.
After Jeff Edmonds coached the 49ers for one season in 1992, Loren Hibbs began a 27-year tenure that is the winningest in the school’s athletic history (818 victories).
Hibbs also guided the 49ers to each of their conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances in addition to recruiting two more major leaguers – Jason Stanford and John Maine.
Charlotte teams would win the Metro Conference tournament title in 1993 and regular season titles in 1994 and 1995 and Atlantic 10 tourney titles in 2007, 2008 and 2011 and regular season titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The 1993, 1998, 2007, 2008 and 2011 teams played in the NCAA tournament.
Tim Collie of Charlotte’s Providence High and Jesse Summey of East Lincoln were standouts on the 1993 team that went 0-2 in the Knoxville, Tenn. Regional.
Charlotte would again go 0-2 in a regional in College Station, Tex., in 1998 before breaking through for two wins in the 2007 regional in Columbia, S.C.
In that regional, Charlotte defeated N.C. State twice before being eliminated by host South Carolina.
After going 0-2 in the Raleigh regional in 2008, the 49ers won their 2011 regional opener over Arkansas in Tempe, Ariz., before losing two straight games.
Forty-six 49ers players have been drafted over the years, including 12 in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Among them were former Cherryville High standout Deon Danner, a ninth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991.
The highest draft pick was Haney, a second-rounder in 1990 by the Montreal Expos. Haney would play 11 seasons in the major leagues for five different organizations (Expos, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox).