ROCK HILL, S.C. - The Charleston Southern Buccaneers move into the home stretch of their Big South schedule on Friday with the opener of a three-game series at Winthrop University. First pitch is set for 7:17 p.m. at The Winthrop Ballpark. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
Both teams need wins to improve their chances at a berth in the Big South Tournament later in the month.
CSU (17-25, 7-8 Big South) is currently in a log jam for second in the South Division. The Bucs are a half game behind Presbyterian (9-9) in the standings and a half game ahead of Gardner-Webb (8-9). All three squads are chasing division-leader Coastal Carolina (13-5), but among the three, only the Bucs still face the Chanticleers.
The top eight teams by overall record in the league, regardless of division, advance to the Big South Championship, held May 21-25 in Lynchburg, Va.
Charleston Southern vs. Winthrop
Friday (ESPN3) - 7:15 p.m. - RHP Ryan Gunther (5-4, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Pierpont (3-4, 3.36 ERA)
Saturday - 4 p.m. - LHP Tory Schroff (5-2, 2.98) vs. TBD
Sunday - 1 p.m. - RHP Kevin Buran (2-7, 3.95 ERA) vs. LHP Sam Kmiec (2-6, 4.03 ERA)
For the Bucs to make a move this weekend - with at least a series win - they will have to do something they have yet to do in Big South play this season: win on the road.
CSU is 0-6 away from CSU Ballpark in league play this season, but hasn't played a road conference game in almost a month. The Bucs play at Radford next weekend.
CSU has been a much better team of late in Big South play and pitching has been the reason. The Bucs' have a team ERA of 2.96 over their last nine Big South games and held Presbyterian to only one earned run in CSU's two wins in the series two weeks ago.
Senior Ryan Gunther will take the ball for the Bucs in the opener on Friday night. He had four strikeouts and allowed one earned run in seven innings of work in the Bucs' 5-2 win over PC in their last Big South game. Junior lefthander Tory Schroff will start Saturday and leads the Bucs with a 5-2 record and a 2.98 ERA. He fired CSU to its first shutout of the season two weeks ago against the Blue Hose.
CSU will try to continue to ride a couple of hot bats at the top of its lineup. Shortstop Alex Tomasovich has a team-high 9-game hitting streak, one shy of the longest stretch for a Buc this season. Centerfielder Bobby Ison, who leads the Bucs with a .371 average, has hit safely in eight consecutive games. He is third in the Big South in batting average.
The Buccaneers are third in the Big South heading into the weekend in team batting average with a .289 mark.
Winthrop (15-30, 3-12 Big South) is five games out of a Big South Tournament spot and has work to do if it wants to reach the postseason, but the Eagles' record is misleading.
Half of Winthrop's losses this season have been decided by two runs or less, including four 1-run losses in conference play, due in large part to a team 4.02 ERA which is fifth in the league.
The series then continues on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. with the series finale on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.