CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Buccaneers travel to Gardner-Webb on Friday to open a three-game Big South Conference series at Gardner-Webb. First pitch is at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by 2 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday. All three games are scheduled to be streamed on the Big South Network.
Charleston Southern needs a series win to climb back into the mix for one of the eight spots in the Big South Championship in May. CSU is currently two games out of the tournament to open the weekend, but the Bucs are only three games out of fifth at the halfway point of the season. If the Bucs are going to make a move, they'll have to do so on the road. Wednesday night's loss at USC Upstate was the beginning of a nine-game stretch away from CSU Ballpark.
To pick up a series win, the Bucs will need to find some run support for Friday starter Evan Raynor (4-3) and get off to a Friday win for the first time in conference play. Raynor has a loss and two no decisions in his last three starts, while the Bucs have scored only four runs in those three games. He still leads the Big South among starters with a 1.87 ERA and is holding opponents to .186 average. CSU had 12 strikeouts in last Friday's 7-1 loss to Asheville, 10 by Raynor.
CSU is third in the Big South in team batting average, but hits haven't equaled run production. The Bucs are 10th in the league in runs scored, but a large portion of the offensive struggles can be attributed to tough weekend series against West Virginia and South Carolina. CSU is averaging over five runs a game in Big South play, but are just 1-3 in games decided by two runs.
The Bucs face one of the Big South's best on Friday night, opposite Raynor. Gardner-Webb's Brad Hames (7-1) is the only pitcher in the Big South with seven wins to this point in the season. His lone loss came at then-No. 21 Coastal Carolina two weeks ago and has an impressive 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Bulldogs started the season 16-1, cleaning up against the likes of Delaware State, Rider, and Iona, but are just 10-13 since.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (15-23, 3-9 Big South) vs. GARDNER-WEBB (26-14, 5-7 Big South)
Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday, 6 p.m. – RHP Evan Raynor (vs. RHP Brad Haymes (7-1, 2.23 ERA)
Saturday 2 p.m. - LHP Daniel Johnson vs. RHP Jeremy Walker (5-4, 4.48 ERA)
Sunday, 2 p.m. – RHP Evan Nations vs. RHP Bradley Hallman (4-3, 4.33 ERA)
BOLSTERED BULLPEN: After a rash of injuries, Charleston Southern's bullpen is moving back to full strength down the season's homestretch. RHP Wil Hartsell and RHP Cody Smith are both available for the final month of the season. Hartsell has made six appearances, five of them scoreless, since April 5 and has two saves. Smith has made two brief appearances after missing exactly a month and has a 2.38 ERA in nine games this season.
EXAMS AHEAD: CSU plays in Lexington again on Tuesday night against Wofford. First pitch is at 6 p.m. The game is ahead of the Bucs' nine-day break for exam week, returning to action on May 6 at Winthrop.