CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern plays to extend its season this weekend when the Bucs head to Presbyterian for a three-game series. The Bucs and Blue Hose will play a doubleheader beginning Thursday at noon, before squaring off in the regular season finale Friday at 3 p.m.
CSU (18-32, 5-16 Big South) enters play one game behind Radford for the eighth and final spot in the 2016 Big South Baseball Championship. Radford hosts UNC Asheville, currently tied with the Bucs in the standings, for a three-game set. CSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Radford, while Asheville has the head-to-head on CSU by virtue of its series victory in Charleston.
No matter how things shake out in Radford, CSU head coach Stuart Lake's team is focused on taking care of its own business against an improved Presbyterian (25-27, 10-11 Big South) club headed to the Big South Tournament for the first time. Lake's Bucs are hoping a win over No. 20 Coastal Carolina last weekend, along with a strong showing at No. 18 Clemson on Tuesday, can create some momentum for a final push.
"We are excited to have an opportunity to finish our season on a positive note," Lake said. "Our players have been resilient through all we have had to deal with and we're very proud of them. We've got a chance in front of us and we'll see if we can go play some good baseball and give ourselves a chance."
PITCHING MATCHUPS (Charleston Southern @ Presbyterian)
Thursday, Game 1 – RHP Evan Raynor (4-4, 2.70 ERA) vs. LHP Brian Kehner (4-6, 3.14 ERA)
Thursday, Game 2 – LHP Daniel Johnson (4-5, 5.95 ERA) vs. RHP Tanner Chock (2-3, 4.86 ERA)
Friday, 3 p.m. – RHP Evan Nations (1-6, 4.61 ERA) vs. RHP David Sauer (4-4, 5.54 ERA)
Evan Raynor and Brian Kehner match up in Thursday's opener in a duel of two of the Big South's leaders in ERA. Raynor was excellent last Friday against Coastal's powerful lineup, silencing the Chanticleers after allowing two early home runs. He stranded runners in scoring position in four straight innings and notched several timely strikeouts to keep Coastal at bay before CSU completed its rally in the eighth.
Raynor and the rest of CSU's staff won't face the lineups it did against Coastal and Clemson, but will have to deal with one of the Big South's top hitters. Presbyterian's Weston Jackson is batting .351 and is among conference leaders in doubles (2nd), RBI (4th) and total bases.
CSU will lean on the top-three in its batting order – Nate Blanchard, Chris Singleton and Sly Edwards – all of whom are all-conference candidates. The Bucs' depth has shown more in recent weeks, with Brian Dye and Mike Sconzo seeming to hit their stride. Dye smoked a home run in last Friday's comeback win over Coastal, while Sconzo went a perfect 4-for-4.
PC took two-of-three from CSU last May at CSU Ballpark. The Blue Hose could finish as high as fifth heading into next Tuesday's Big South Championship at Lexington County Stadium in Lexington, S.C.