CHARLESTON, S.C. - With rain looming in the Charleston horizon, the Buccaneers softball team travels down to the Sunshine State and Gainesville, Fla. to take part in the Florida Lipton Invitational hosted by the University of Florida from February 15-17 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Charleston Southern (1-2) will take on Western Carolina (twice), Savannah State, UNC Wilmington and tournament host #5/5 Florida during the three day weekend tournament.
Charleston Southern starts their preparations for the upcoming weekend tournament early as the Buccaneers' scheduled doubleheader against local rival College of Charleston on Wednesday afternoon was called due to heavy rainfall which battered the Lowcountry since this weekend.
The doubleheader between the Buccaneers and Cougars has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 26th at the Patriots Point Athletics Complex, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.
This past weekend the Bucs went 1-2 against George Mason and UNC Greensboro, splitting the series against the Patriots before falling to a late home run to the Spartans in Saturday's final game.
Junior third baseman Stephanie Sbardella went 5-for-8 from the plate over the weekend, hitting her first home run of the season and added a double, three RBI and two runs in hitting .625 over her first three games.
Senior second baseman Trea Steele also had the hot bat over the weekend, opening the season with a three-game hitting streak, hitting .375 from the plate, scoring two runs with a double and an RBI.
Senior left fielder Jana Matthews took one step closer to the top of the record books over the weekend, connecting on her 26th career home run in the CSU Blue and Gold, pulling her within one of former teammate Megan Lombard's record of 27 home runs. Matthews' connected on a three-run home run in the bottom of the first against UNCG to give CSU the early lead.
Inside the circle for the Bucs, sophomore pitcher Jennifer Giles has seen most of the time on the mound, throwing a team-high 14 innings with 10 strikeouts in two complete games, but is still searching for her first win of the season. Senior Linzy Rother and junior Hayes Holdsworth have also lined up on the rubber for head coach Shane Winkler this season, with Rother recording the lone win for the Bucs' pitching staff, while Holdsworth started against George Mason on the second day of the CSU tournament.
The Florida Lipton Invitational begins a 12 game road trip spanning the remainder of the month of February, before Charleston Southern returns home to Buccaneer Field and the CSU Softball Complex for the Buccaneer Invitational. CSU welcomes #4/4 Tennessee, UNC Wilmington and Valparaiso for the three day tournament spanning March 1-3.
Western Carolina Catamounts (2-2)
The Catamounts enter the Florida Lipton Classic with a 2-2 record after opening the 2013 season on the road at the Subway Upstate Classic hosted by USC Upstate.
Western Carolina defeated Maine and N.C. Central in the tournament, while falling to UMKC and host USC Upstate over the weekend.
The Catamounts boast a veteran lineup with Western Carolina will have a veteran look in the infield with seven of the eight position players returning from the 2012 season, with freshman Taylor Sigmonis expected to get the starting nod at first base.
The Catamounts return two game-tested pitchers in senior Amber Steinhardt and sophomore Jordan Garrett. Steinhardt made 34 appearances and had an 8-7 record. Garrett paced the Catamounts in 2012 with 147 strikeouts becoming the first Catamount freshmen pitcher to go over 100 strikeouts since 2007.
Steinhardt and fellow senior Shemekia Scotton are two returning who hit above .300 for the Catamounts in 2012. Scotton ranked second on the team with a .331 batting average and was recently named 2013 Southern Conference First Team Preseason All-Conference. Steinhardt hit .311 in 2012 and ranked third on the team with six homeruns.
Savannah State Lady Tigers (3-1)
Savannah State comes into this weekend's tournament with a 3-1 record overall, opening the season with three consecutive wins against Morgan State and Thomas University, before falling to USC Beaufort.
The Lady Tigers made history in 2012 with the first winning season in program history, winning the regular season MEAC South Division Title and a berth into the MEAC Championship game.
Though the Lady Tigers lost eight players from last year's team, Savannah State returns the preseason Pitcher of the Year in senior Madison Hedderly and has the reigning MEAC Rookie of the Week on their roster in freshman Torrian Wright.
Hedderly posted an 18-12 record last season with a 1.92 earned run average, leading the MEAC with 192 strikeouts in earning All-Conference First Team honors.
2012 MEAC Rookie of the Year Amber Hallman also returns to lead the Lady Tigers infield, while Wright has led the offense on the season with three home runs and five RBI over her first four collegiate games.
UNC Wilmington Seahawks (3-2)
Under first year head coach Kristy Norton, the Seahawks opened up their 2013 season at home, hosting Iona, Detroit and Nebraska-Omaha at the UNCW Beach Blast on Boseman Field. The Seahawks recorded wins over Detroit and a sweep over Iona in the opening weekend to start 3-2 on the year.
Wilmington welcomes back 10 letter winners and seven starters from last season's squad, led by senior shortstop Lauryn Buckworth and CAA All-Rookie selection Jordan Critcher, while sophomore pitcher Casey Rowland is also back after making 31 appearances and 24 starts in the circle for the Seahawks in the 2012 season.
Rowland is the reigning CAA Pitcher of the Week after going 2-0 in her first three appearances at the UNCW Beach Blast, striking out 12 batters in 13.1 innings, while limiting opponents to a .114 batting average.
At the plate, Buckworth and KC Shue currently lead the Seahawks bats with Buckworth hitting .538 on the season with seven hits, two doubles and five RBI, while Shue has four RBI and six hits in 13 at-bats, with two doubles and two runs scored.
Former CSU assistant coach Meredith Felts will be a familiar face on the sidelines when the Bucs take on the Seahawks. Felts worked with the CSU pitching staff for the past two seasons, helping the Buccaneers rotation to a new single season mark for strikeouts in each season as the team ranked near the top of the Big South in ERA.
#5/5 Florida Gators (5-0)
The Gators opened the 2013 season with a 5-0 record at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., jumping from no. 13/14 to no. 5/5 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 polls released this past Tuesday.
Florida defeated No. 3 California and No. 5 Oregon, as well as No. 13 Arizona, Creighton and Cal State Northridge over the weekend and were led by SEC Player of the week, freshman Kelsey Stewart who batting .556 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, five RBI, five stolen bases and 10 runs scored on the weekend.
All 16 Gators on the UF roster saw action over the weekend, with all three starting pitchers earning wins as Hannah Rogers and Lauren Haeger are both 2-0 on the season, while Alyssa Bache picked up the win over Cal State Northridge to move to 1-0 on the year.
This weekend features the first time Florida will play Charleston Southern, Western Carolina, Savannah State and UNC Wilmington in program history.