CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte 49ers are the top team in Conference USA, and are ranked No. 19 in the nation.
The Niners host Old Dominion for a big weekend series beginning Friday, and you'll likely see right-handed relief pitcher Jackson Boss make an appearance or two.
He's second in all of Division 1 baseball with 21 appearances this season.
Two years ago Boss was just an anonymous Charlotte student, playing for the club team.
"Every day my teammates would say you're good enough to play for the school team," said Boss, "Send the coach an email."
So after adding a little bit more velocity, the former D2 pitcher at Young Harris (Ga.), who had not played since 2017 typed that email to 49ers coach Robert Woodard.
"And I was like hey coach I'm hitting 89-90 mph," Boss said. "I'm on your campus. Wanna give me a shot?"
Woodard admits that coaches get many emails from prospective players.
"It was a really great email," he said. "We thought Jackson's really stood out to us."
So much so that they gave him the tryout.
"I was definitely not thinking anything of it," Boss said. "I thought they were going to say hey, we have people who throw harder."
Woodard made him sweat it a bit but knew almost right away that he was putting Boss in his bullpen.
"About four pitches in I'm thinking to myself he's going to make our team," Woodard said. "Because we don't have this on our pitching staff."
Boss sent an email in December 2019. By January he was a member of the Charlotte 49ers baseball team.
"They told me I was on the team and I was in complete shock," the Loganville, Georgia native said. "Called my dad. My dad was in complete shock. I think he was in more shock than me."
Yes, Boss throws hard. So do most Division 1 pitchers.
But that's where the similarities end.
"The movement on Jackson's pitch is unlike anything we have on our pitching staff," Woodard said.
Boss throws almost exclusively one pitch. A cut fastball that basically jumps before it gets to the batter.
He's used in relief to get the 49ers out of big jams.
His first appearance in 2020, the bases were loaded against VCU, and Boss minimized the damage.
This year, his 21 relief appearances are second in all of NCAA Division 1 baseball.
In 23.2 innings, he's struck out 21 batters and given up 16 hits and 13 walks.
"I was just glad that Coach Woodard gave me a shot," Boss said. "I didn't think I'd lead the nation in appearances. I didn't think I would get in to a game."
That email turned into a win-win for everybody.
"What did we just stumble upon? Stories like that they don't happen very often," said Woodard. "If ever."
Charlotte (26-10) hosts Old Dominion on Friday at 6 p.m.
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