CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Robert Woodard's Charlotte 49ers are college baseball's walking, talking epitome of being "all in."
What You Need To Know
- Charlotte claimed the Conference USA title in Houston
- 49ers are making their 7th NCAA baseball tournament appearance
- Charlotte opens play Friday vs. Tennessee at the Clemson Regional
After dropping their tournament opener against Louisiana Tech, Woodard addressed his team, invoking a poker reference from the late Doyle Brunson. Considered the "Godfather of Poker," Brunson passed away on May 14, but a story once told by Brunson was the motivation that Woodard felt his team needed to hear.
"I saw him talking about how as long as you have a chip and a chair, you have a chance," Woodard said Tuesday.
Charlotte proceeded to rattle off five straight wins and become the first team since 2004 to win the Conference USA tournament after losing the opening game of the event. As a result, Charlotte grabbed the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins this week.
The 49ers will open tournament play Friday at 6 p.m. against the Tennessee Volunteers.
"When we won the championship in Houston, we talked about that chip and a chair a lot," Woodard continued. "Then on the bus, we were talking about how we get to sit at a higher stakes table now."
The 49ers finished the regular season with a 29-25 record, hardly the stuff post-season berths are made of, but now that they have momentum, and more importantly confidence, this team feels they will be tough to beat in regional play this week. Almost like they have an ace up their sleeve.
"Poker and baseball, they translate to life," said outfielder Cam Fisher. "If you have one chip left at the table, you're still there. You can make that chip turn into what we did this week. All you gotta have is confidence."
The kings of Conference USA may come from the Queen City, but they hope that their aces hold up as they hit the road to Clemson on Thursday.