CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern faces its first Big South road test this weekend as the Buccaneers make the trek to Lynchburg, Va. to face Liberty. First pitch of Friday's series opener is at 7 p.m. All three games will be carried on ESPN3.
The Bucs play their first road series since traveling to South Carolina in early March and will get their fill of game away from CSU Ballpark over the next month. CSU play 13 of their next 17 games on the road including conference series at Gardner-Webb and Winthrop after this weekend's series.
To win on the road, you rely on your strength. For the Bucs, their strength has been pitching. CSU leads the Big South in Team ERA at 3.86 and Head Coach Stuart Lake expects the weekend to be decided by which team can get the most from their starters.
CSU senior Evan Raynor (4-2) has 17 strikeouts and only two walks in two starts in conference play. He'll be tasked with getting the Bucs going on Friday night.
"As always, Raynor has really given us a few quality starts, but we haven't taken advantage of them enough," Lake said on Thursday afternoon. "(Liberty) is a really good offensive team, one of the better ones we've seen in weeks. We need to take some pressure off our guys by getting into their bullpen. They've got really good starting pitching as well."
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS – VIDEO - LIVESTATS
CSU (12-17, 1-5 Big South) vs. Liberty (17-14, 3-3)
Friday, 7 p.m. - RHP Evan Raynor (4-2, 1.54 ERA) vs. LHP Victor Cole (2-2, 3.41 ERA)
Saturday, 3 p.m. - LHP Daniel Johnson (3-3, 4.42) vs. RHP Evan Mitchell (1-2, 2.15 ERA)
Sunday, 2 p.m. - TBA (CSU) vs. RHP Jack DeGroat (1-2, 6.04)
Outside of an explosive 18-run effort against Campbell, runs have been tough to come by for the Bucs in conference play.
CSU has scored just 16 in its five other league games and has left almost two runners on-base per game, but it isn't for a lack of opportunities. The Bucs are hitting almost .300 as a team (.298) in Big South play and have a team on-base percentage of .387 in conference games. Lake sees his team pressing a little bit, but expects one or two key hits to become a contagious change for the offense.
"I've asked some really good coaches the same thing," Lake said when asked what it takes to get that game-changing hit. "It just seems to be contagious. You see a big hit fall and suddenly they come in bunches like they did on Tuesday night (18-1 win over The Citadel). We need to get (to Liberty), have a good (batting practice), and be ready to put together good at-bats."
One Buc who has seemed to seize almost every opportunity at the plate is senior Sly Edwards. The Bucs' outfielder leads the Big South with a .426 average and four triples. He is second in the league with a .508 on-base percentage.
The Bucs are off to somewhat of a slow start in Big South play at 1-5, but a good weekend would go a long way. CSU is only 2.5 games out of fifth with a lot of baseball remaining.
Both teams were swept in conference play last weekend. CSU played a Saturday-Monday series against Longwood and let early leads slip away in all three games. The Bucs bounced back with an 18-1 drubbing of The Citadel on Tuesday night.
The win featured the season debut of reliever Wil Hartsell, who worked two scoreless innings in his first game action since 2014. He could significantly bolster the Bucs' bullpen this weekend. Kyle Dyson also worked an inning on Tuesday night, his first action in almost a month.