CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern jumped ahead early and the Buccaneers pitching staff struck out 13 on Sunday afternoon as CSU topped visiting Liberty at the CSU Ballpark, 11-4.
The Bucs (12-9, 2-4) plated two runs in each of the first three innings and Brandon Gragilla added a late two-run home run in the eighth as CSU took the series finale from the Flames (14-8, 4-2) after dropping the first two contests of the weekend conference series.
Nate Blanchard, Chris Singleton, and Gragilla had two hits apiece for the Bucs in the game and all nine members of the starting lineup reached base in the contest as CSU improved to 5-0 in Sunday games in the 2017 season.
Kyle Dyson (1-0) picked up his first win of the season with the redshirt senior right-hander allowing six hits and three runs, while striking out seven in the game. Dyson retired the final five batters he faced on strikes before turning the ball over the CSU bullpen. Daniel Johnson added five strikeouts in relief and Eddie Hiott retired a batter on looking in the eighth for the Bucs as CSU bounced back from a pair of tough outings in the conference win.
Jackson Bertsch (1-1) suffered the loss for the Flames going 1.1 innings, allowing five hits and four runs (one earned). Liberty committed four errors, leading to four CSU unearned runs in the game.
Mike Sconzo pushed the first CSU run across in the bottom of the first with a fielder's choice scoring Nate Blanchard to put the Bucs on the board. Chris Singleton added the second run on a Bertsch wild pitch to put CSU up 2-0 after the first.
Liberty responded with two runs in the third against Dyson. Jake Barbee doubled in D.J. Artis and later came around to score on Trey McDyre's infield single to narrow the margin to 4-2.
Aaron Miller and Smith put the Bucs lead back at four in the bottom of the third. Miller singled in Gragilla with a base hit to centerfield to put the lead at 5-2. Smith followed two batters later with a sacrifice fly to left field driving in Sconzo.
Payton Scarbrough led off the Liberty fourth with a solo home run to left center. Dyson recovered to start a stretch of strikeouts that would span the next three innings as the Bucs held the Flames lineup in check.
Dyson retired the final two batters on strikes in the fourth. He followed up by striking out the side in the fifth before turning the ball over to Johnson to start the sixth. Johnson retired Scarbrough and Cam Locklear on strikes to give the Bucs' pitching staff seven in a row before Artis snapped the streak with a shallow single to left field.
CSU added to its lead in the sixth as Miller connected on a two-run double to right centerfield scoring Blanchard and Cole German. The relay into the infield was bobbled and then kicked away from the Liberty infield allowing Singleton to score on the play as well to give CSU the 9-3 lead.
Andrew Kowalo put the Flames on the board with a one-out home run over the left field fence to cut the lead back down to 9-4.
Gragilla responded with his second home run of the season with a no-doubter that cleared the right field fence with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. His shot brought home Singleton to provide the final margin.
Smith took the mound in the ninth and closed out his conference-leading 10th game of the season to end the contest.
Kyle Dyson striking out the side in the fifth was the fourth time a CSU pitcher has struck out the side this season, and third time this past week. Nik Constantakos recorded the first one last weekend against Longwood to start the Saturday game. Cody Smith recorded a perfect eighth in the midweek contest against South Carolina this past Wednesday. Daniel Johnson became the third Buc to reach the mark with a perfect sixth on Friday night against the Flames.
CSU's 13 strikeouts as a pitching staff in Sunday's game was one off of the season-high and just the sixth double-digit strikeout performance for the staff in 2017. The Bucs set the season mark with 14 in CSU's 4-2 win over Virginia Commonwealth on February 26th in the series finale against the Rams.
Brandon Gragilla's two-run home run in the eighth made the senior designated hitter the third Buccaneer to record multiple home runs in the season. He joins Cole German (3) and Nate Blanchard (2) as the only Bucs with multiple home runs this year.
Charleston Southern improves to 5-0 on Sunday in the 2017 season as the Bucs picked up their fifth win of the season on the first/last day of the week depending on personal preference of the calendar. CSU has had the opposite kind of luck on Fridays with a 0-6 record on the final day of the American work week following the weekend.
"That was a big one there. It's always good to win on Sunday; probably the most important game of the week. It was good to see these guys come out and get it done today. Kyle Dyson, on the mound, gave us a start we really needed with a little bit of a thin bullpen. He did a tremendous job and so did those three guys in relief. We strung together some good at-bats too. The top of the lineup was good and the guys at the bottom took care of things too," – Interim Head Coach Adam Ward following the Bucs' win.
Charleston Southern makes the trip to Lexington County Stadium on Tuesday night for a midweek neutral site game against USC Upstate with first pitch set for 6 p.m. The Bucs return home on Wednesday night to host Savannah State with first pitch also set for 6 p.m.