CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern begins, essentially, two new seasons when the Buccaneers open Big South play this weekend at UNC Asheville. The three-game series begins on Saturday at Asheville's Greenwood Field.
The weekend schedule has been pushed back to Saturday-Monday. Live stats are available HERE for all three games, while Sunday and Monday's games are onb the Big South Network.
CSU (8-6) opens conference play with the first of eight Big South series scheduled over the next 10 weeks. The Bucs also will get their first true taste of road baseball after a CSU Ballpark-heavy slate to open the season.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS (CSU vs. Asheville)
Game 1 - Saturday, 3 p.m. – LHP Andrew Tomasovich (3-1, 2.42 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Randall (1-2, 6.17 ERA)
Game 2 - Sunday, 1 p.m. – RHP Evan Raynor (0-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. LHP Lucas Clarke (2-1, 1.93 ERA)
Game 3 – Monday, 3 p.m. – RHP Denis Buckley (0-0, 5.79 ERA) vs. RHP Joe Zayatz (0-4, 5.74 ERA)
The Bucs are chasing their first Big South title since 1996 and CSU head coach Stuart Lake knows, with a shortened Big South scheduled (24 games vs. 27 in '12 and '13), starting fast is a big part of the conference race.
"This is a year where we have stressed the importance of starting conference play with a sense of urgency," Lake said. "We're playing a shorter schedule than we have been in the past, so every game is a little more important. You're excited to come out and get that first game going, but we also want to come out and establish that we're a good baseball team and are a major factor in this race."
CSU will also get its first taste of road baseball this weekend. The Bucs have played 13-of-14 games at CSU Ballpark to open the season.
The Buccaneers begin Big South play with back-to-back road series. Following this weekend's series at Asheville, CSU will travel to Longwood next weekend (March 20-22) in Farmville, Va. The Bucs play 11 of their next 13 games on the road after playing just one road game in the season's first month.
"This is really our first true road trip," Lake added. "We really didn't get a full pregame warm-up at South Carolina because of weather. I'm looking forward to getting away as a team and not having to take care of all of those things you have to do at home. If you're going to be a championship team, you have to be successful on the road."
Starting pitching is almost always the defining factor in conference play and Lake likes where the Bucs are headed. Junior Andrew Tomasovich (3-1) has been dominant in three of his four stars, while junior Evan Raynor (0-1) has moved into the Saturday role. Senior Denis Buckley has yet to factor into a decision, but pitched very well in games against LaSalle and South Carolina.
"It's important to establish your weekend rotation with a stong start on Friday night and Andrew has given us that," Lake said. "Raynor has started to step up on Saturdays and Buckley is a senior that I think will help us win tough games on Sunday."
Asheville (8-8) enters the first weekend of Big South Conference play with wins in three of their last four games, including two one-run wins over Furman in mid-week play. The Dogs rallied past Furman in 10 innings, 9-8 on Tuesday at Greenwood Field and then held off the Paladins on Wednesday, 7-6 in Greenville.
UNC Asheville plays its next 10 games at home, including a conference series with Coastal Carolina next weekend (March 20-22).
Asheville leads the nation in turning double plays at 1.47 per game. The Bulldogs are second in total doubles plays at 22.