CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Buccaneers softball team returns to the Lowcountry this weekend as Charleston Southern travels to nearby College of Charleston and the Patriots Point Athletics Complex for the CofC Cougar Classic with action running from February 22-24.
During the three day tournament, the Buccaneers will take on Wagner (twice), Radford, South Carolina and host College of Charleston. The Bucs open the tournament on Friday evening against Wagner, with first pitch against the Seahawks set for 6 p.m.
The Bucs (2-6) enter this weekend coming off of a 1-4 appearance last week's Florida Lipton Invitational in which CSU defeated Savannah State, while falling to Western Carolina, UNC Wilmington and No. 5/5 Florida during their three days in Gainesville, Fla. and Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Charleston Southern fell in the opener to Western Carolina, 2-0, before rebounding with a 19-11 victory on the evening of the first day against Savannah State behind the bats of Trea Steele and Stephanie Sbardella.
Saturday's action saw CSU fall in two tight contests, dropping their second game of the weekend to the Catamounts in the morning, 3-0 in extra innings, while losing to UNC Wilmington in the evening game despite Melanie Stickney's first home run of the season.
In Sunday's game, in arguably the game of the tournament, the Bucs held the 3-2 lead against host Florida heading into the bottom of the seventh behind a strong pitching performance by Jennifer Giles. However, the Gators were able to rally in forcing extra innings, before pulling out the 4-3 win in the eighth with a walk-off double.
For the season, junior third baseman Stephanie Sbardella is among the Big South Conference leaders, hitting .455 on the season from the plate, and leads the team in hits (10), doubles (3), home runs (1), RBI (7), runs (6), total bases (16), slugging percentage (.727) and on-base percentage (.552)
Teammate and fellow junior Marci Christian is in the midst of a team-high and season-high seven game hitting streak, hitting .455 over the stretch with 10 hits, including three doubles.
Senior left fielder Jana Matthews took one step closer to the top of the record books over the first weekend of the season, 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.
Sophomore right-hander Jennifer Giles has had a string of tough luck to open the season and is still searching for her first win after recording five starts and throwing four complete games with a 2.56 earned run average. Giles carried a three-hit shutout into extra innings against UNC Wilmington and held the Florida bats silent for five innings this past weekend at the Lipton Invitational.
Senior Linzy Rother and junior Hayes Holdsworth both had recorded wins on the mound for head coach Shane Winkler, combining for three starts and six appearances inside the circle on the season.
Freshman shortstop Natalie Yonan has opened her career in the CSU Blue and Gold earning the start up the middle in each of the eight games this season.
Charleston Southern returns home next weekend for the Buccaneer Invitational, welcoming No. 4/4 Tennessee, Valparaiso and UNC Wilmington to Buccaneer Field for a three-day tournament spanning March 1-3.
Wagner Seahawks (0-0)
Wagner opens their 2013 schedule this weekend at the CofC Cougar Classic, returning 13 letterwinners and seven starters from last season's 18-34 squad under head coach Glen Payne.
The Seahawks were selected 10th overall in the Northeast Conference's preseason coaches' poll and are led by two NEC All-Conference performers in infielders Brittany Huss and Kristen Matteoni.
Huss posted a team-high .340 batting average last season, ranking 12th overall in the Northeast Conference, leading the Seahawks with 53 hits and 20 RBI in the 2012 season. Matteoni tied for the team lead in home runs last season with seven, and hit .306 in her freshman season.
Wagner returns sophomore hurlers Samantha Bedker and Olivia Zwick to the mound in 2013, with the duo combining for 54 appearances and 38 starts in their first collegiate seasons.
Radford Highlanders (0-2)
Radford is no stranger to the Buccaneers as the schools are both members of the Big South Conference. This weekend's game between the Highlanders and CSU will not count toward the conference standings.
The Highlanders opened the season on the road against No. 23 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, falling in both games of the doubleheader to the Tarheels, 7-1 and 7-3, while their scheduled home opener against Virginia Tech was called due to rain.
Radford was picked fifth in the Big South preseason coaches' poll after losing all but three of their starters from last season's BSC regular season champions as the Highlanders went 34-21, 16-5 in conference play to take the crown.
Jackie Jenkins returns to take the mound for the Highlanders this season, but struggled in her opening start against UNC, throwing a complete game in the loss to the Tarheels.
The Highlanders offense is led on the season by Becky Mantel and Ryndee Ruch as the duo has three hits apiece, while Emily Naegele has supplied power to the lineup with a solo home run to her credit.
South Carolina Gamecocks (6-3)
The Gamecocks enter the weekend veterans of two tournaments to open the season, winning all four games at the Stetson Lead-Off Classic against Stetson and Michigan State, while going 2-3 at this past weekend's UCF Holiday Inn Select Tournament.
The Gamecocks will take the field four times over the weekend at the Cougar Classic, taking on CSU, College of Charleston, UNC Wilmington and Radford once each.
South Carolina returned four position starters from last season with a lot of depth up the middle, returning their catcher, shortstop and second baseman, while Chelsea Hawkins saw a majority of time in right field in 2012. On the mound, Aubrey Broyles and Katelynn Howser return as the team's ERA and strikeout leaders respectively.
So far this season, Samie Garcia leads the offense, hitting .594 on the year with four doubles and five triples among her 19 hits on the season. Alaynie Page and Kristen Struett are also hitting above .400 on the season, with Struett and Chelsea Hawkins leading the team with two home runs apiece.
On the mound, Julie Sarratt, Broyles, Howser and Katie Marks have all seen over 10 innings inside the circle this season in a balanced pitching effort by head coach Beverly Smith.
College of Charleston Cougars (4-3)
This is the second tournament the College of Charleston has hosted this season, opening the 2013 season last weekend with the CofC Classic against Akron, East Tennessee State, Towson, James Madison and Syracuse.
The Cougars went 2-3 against the opposition in the tournament, but went back above .500 on Tuesday evening against visiting South Carolina State, sweeping the Bulldogs, 5-0 and 6-1, at the Patriots Point Athletics Complex.
College of Charleston was picked third in the Southern Conference's preseason coaches' poll, with five players earning preseason All-Conference honors, including Stephanie Saylors, Lizzy Vaughn, Kelsey Hodgson and Hope Klicker. Klicker earned All-Conference honors as both a pitcher and utility player.
On the season, Carly Corthell and Chandler Frisbie lead the Cougars' offense hitting over .300 apiece with Corthell leading the team with a .368 batting average with seven hits, including a double and a triple. Frisbie leads the team's power output with the lone home run for the Cougars on the season.
On the mound, Saylors and Klicker have combined to throw all 37 innings for CofC, with Saylors boasting a 2-0 record and a 2.57 earned run average, while Klicker leads the way with 22 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.