Saturday, May 9 was a day meant to honor the 11 graduates on the baseball team with a special ceremony on the field. The celebration took place pre-game with Chancellor Gaber, athletic director Mike Hill and Mark Verberg there to honor the collegiate athletes.
Once the first pitch was thrown, however, it was the freshmen on the team that shined, guiding the team to 2-0 in the doubleheader against Marshall. Specifically, in game two, it was highlighted by the performance of freshman starting pitcher Spencer Giesting. The former Badin High School standout started the season in the bullpen, appearing in 22 games before earning the first start of his young career.
"There was a ton of excitement throughout our entire program. I think that was the most anticipated start we've had in a number of weeks," said Head Coach Robert Woodard after the game.
Entering the game, Giesting was coming off one of his worst performances of the season against Old Dominion. In 4.1 innings, he allowed nine hits, five runs and four extra-base hits, all of which are season highs.
If Giesting felt nervous about making his first collegiate start, he didn't show it.
The left-hander was as composed on the mound as a four-year starter, throwing a complete game and fanning a career-high 11 batters, the most for any Charlotte pitcher this season. In seven innings, he allowed only five hits, three runs and three walks.
To start the game, Giesting allowed only two hits through three innings, with the highlight of his performance coming in the second inning by striking out the side.
While the Hamilton, Ohio native was stifling the Herd offense, the 49ers were adding run security in the early going. Charlotte took a 7-0 leadoff four hits after a five-run frame in the third. Austin Knight started the scoring with a bases-loaded walk, followed up with back-to-back hits from Aaron McKeithan and Craig Keuchel to bring in three runs. The inning ended with a wild pitch to bring home one final run.
Halfway through the game, Marshall batters started to get the best of Giesting, scoring three runs in the fourth off a home run from Zach Inskeep. However, that would be all the excitement that Marshall gets in the game. Following the three-run blast, Giesting allowed one hit and struck out seven batters the rest of the way. He also went through the fifth and sixth innings with ease, putting out six straight batters.
After the game, coach Woodard praised Giesting's resilience after allowing the three-run homer.
"The most impressive part of Spencer's outing is he took that punch, and you couldn't even tell," said Woodard. "For a true freshman to have that look about him, that moxy to him, he's got the moxy a lot of the best pitchers have and that was on full display from that at-bat on."
Charlotte still led 7-3, but the team put together a string of hits over the next three innings to add five more runs to secure a commanding nine-run lead. Fellow freshmen on the team played their part in increasing the lead with an RBI double from Jake Cunningham and a solo shot from Will Butcher.
Giesting closed out the game with two consecutive strikeouts, followed by a roar of applause from the limited crowd at Hayes Stadium. He threw a season-high 108 pitches in the game that extended Charlotte's winning streak.
With his first start under his belt, there's no telling what is in store for the rest of Giesting's bright future at Charlotte.
"We all believe he's one of the best left-handed pitchers in the country," said Woodard. "We've talked about getting him in the rotation at the right time and it just felt right this weekend. For a true freshman to throw a seven-inning complete game and punch out 11 is his debut start is pretty special."