CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern's bats exploded in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Bucs sent 10 batters to the plate with Trea Steele capping off the frame with a walk-off double to the fence in centerfield as CSU defeated Wagner, 9-1, on the first day of the College of Charleston Cougar Classic.
Melanie Stickney drove out her second home run of the season in the sixth inning, while Steele recorded two hits as Charleston Southern improves to 3-6 on the season. Wagner falls to 0-2 on the season with the loss.
"It's nice to come out and get this win," commented head coach Shane Winkler about picking up the victory over Wagner. "With the weather, our team showed some mental toughness as the players were sitting around, not knowing if we were going to play or start on time today with the delay. To see them jump out at the beginning of the game and get a couple of runs was really nice."
Jennifer Giles (1-4) picked up her first win of the season. The sophomore right-hander tossed a complete game, scattering four hits while striking out five batters in the victory.
"That was our number one goal," said Winkler on Giles picking up her first win of the season. "She has thrown several great games this season and pitched an outstanding game against Florida. She's been a tough-luck loser this season, and it was nice to finally get her some run-support in this game. She did great in the circle, and the sticks came alive when we needed them."
Samantha Bedker (0-1) suffered the loss in the game, throwing four innings and striking out eight batters, while allowing six runs. Olivia Zwick also saw time on the mound for the Seahawks, allowing three runs in 0.2 innings.
CSU's offense pounded out 10 hits in the CofC Cougar Classic opener, led by Trea Steele going 3-for-4 from the plate with a double, two runs to go with the final RBI in the game. Stephanie Sbardella also picked up two hits with a double, two runs scored and two RBI, while Marci Christian added two RBI in the win.
"With all the wet weather we've had recently, we've had the opportunity to get in the batting cage and work on things, such as taking better mental approaches," commented Winkler on the team's hitting prowess on the evening. "With a pitcher working primarily away from us, we worked on hitting locations. Trea done a great job for us all season, leading off the offense and setting the tone at the plate, while Melanie has run into a few and shown she has a great deal of power with her second home run of the season. Stephanie has just been absolutely lights out for us as well."
Kelsey Parker went 2-for-2 from the plate to pace the Seahawks' offense, while Brittany Huss drove in the lone run for Wagner.
Giles worked her way out of trouble in the top of the first inning as Wagner put two runners in scoring position with one out. The CSU right-hander battled her way out of frame, retiring the next two batters on a shallow popup to centerfield and a groundout to keep the Seahawks at bay.
The Buccaneers struck in the bottom of the first inning as the first three runners all reached base and scored to stake Giles to the early 3-0 lead.
Steele led off the frame with a single up the middle, advancing to second on Jana Matthews' walk. Sbardella followed with a double, hammering a 1-2 pitch down the left field line in plating Steele for the first run of the contest. Matthews followed two batters later, scoring on a wild pitch to double the Bucs lead, while Hannah Wagner drilled a single to left field, rounding out the scoring in bringing in Sbardella for the final run of the frame.
Wagner got one back in the top of the third, breaking up Giles' no-hit bid in the process as Huss singled in Hayley Sullivan for the Seahawks' first run of the game. Sullivan reached on a hit by pitch with two outs, advancing into scoring position on Parker's base hit to shallow right centerfield, before coming around to score on Huss' single. Giles limited the damage, getting the final out on a grounder to Natalie Yonan to end the inning.
Bedker settled down, retiring seven consecutive CSU batters, but the Bucs bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth, as Charleston Southern scored six runs, closing out the contest with the run-rule.
Steele led off the inning with a sharp single up the middle. Matthews followed with a blast to straightaway centerfield, short-hopping the fence for a double, advancing Steele to third on the play. Sbardella drove in her second run of the game, driving a single up the middle plating Steele. Christian followed with a line drive up the middle, getting through the Wagner centerfielder, scoring Matthews and Sbardella before ending up on third to advance the CSU lead to 6-1. Two pitches later, Christian touched home on a wild pitch to increase the lead to six.
Melanie Stickney put an exclamation point on the scoring in the inning, driving a 1-0, two out offering from Zwick over the fence in right centerfield, next to the scoreboard to put the Bucs up 8-1.
Steele closed out the game with her third hit of the contest and second of the inning as the senior second baseman drilled a 2-2 offering over the centerfielder's head for the walk-off double, scoring Ari Tedesco for the final run.
"The biggest thing we can do is keep improving," said Winkler looking ahead to the rest of the weekend. "Even in this game, we found things to nit-pick at. We had four innings where our offense struggled, so we're going to come out and take the approach to do things a little better every day. Tomorrow's a big day for us; it's a chance to make a mark early to our conference with the game against Radford, and then we come back with our second game against an SEC opponent this season with South Carolina."
Charleston Southern continues at the College of Charleston Cougar Classic tomorrow afternoon as the Buccaneers take on Radford at the Patriots Point Athletics Complex, with first pitch set for 4:30 p.m. The Bucs will also be in action tomorrow evening, taking on South Carolina with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.