CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern softball is in the midst of an 11 game home stand as the Buccaneers welcome Mississippi State and Big South Conference foe Longwood to the CSU Softball Field this weekend.
CSU will take on the Bulldogs of Mississippi State in a seven inning contest on Friday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. The Buccaneers will then open Big South Conference play on Saturday and Sunday, welcoming newcomer to the Big South Longwood as Charleston Southern opens conference play with a doubleheader against the Lancers on Saturday afternoon starting at 1 p.m., while finishing up the series on Sunday with start time at 1 p.m.
Charleston Southern enters the weekend on a bit of a skid, having dropped 10 of their past 11 games while taking on tough competition from coast to coast, having recently played in the Long Beach State Mayfair Invitational from March 8-11 in Long Beach, Calif.
While in Long Beach, Charleston Southern went 1-5, recording their lone win of the weekend in their final game, picking up the 9-6 victory over Bethune-Cookman.
Senior pitcher Linzy Rother connected on her first two home runs of the season, including the game-winning walk-off three-run home run that pushed the Buccaneers over the top of the Wildcats, while Marci Christian continued her slugging ways with a three-run blast of her own during the game.
Less than 24 hours after the Bucs plane touched down in Charleston, S.C., Charleston Southern was back at it again at home as CSU took on visiting Appalachian State to jumpstart the 11 game home stand at the CSU Softball Field.
The Buccaneers bats came alive as Christian, Stephanie Sbardella and Rother all went deep for CSU in the doubleheader against the Mountaineers, but the Bucs were unable to overcome the right arm of Alissa Schoelkopf as Charleston Southern fell in both games by scores of 3-1 and 11-6.
Friday's game against Mississippi State marks the third Southeastern Conference opponent Charleston Southern has faced this season as the Buccaneers previously took on Florida at the Florida Lipton Invitational, and hosted Tennessee at the Buccaneer Invitational two weeks ago.
Saturday and Sunday's contests mark Charleston Southern's first foray into Big South Conference play this season after finishing last year in the Big South Conference Championship Game to Coastal Carolina. The Buccaneers were picked to finish second overall in the Preseason Big South Coaches' Poll, returning six seniors and 15 returners to the squad that set a program record last year with 12 conference wins.
Christian, Sbardella and senior second baseman Trea Steele lead the CSU offense on the season with Christian leading all players with a .353 batting average on the year with 24 hits and five home runs. She also leads the team with 21 runs batted in, all while playing multiple positions on the field for Head Coach Shane Winkler, including lining up at first base, right field and catcher.
Sbardella is close behind in the batting average category, hitting .351 on the year and enters the game having reached base in a team-leading 17 consecutive games, dating back to February 16th against Western Carolina. She also leads the team with 18 runs scored, 13 walks and three sacrifice flies.
Steele falls just short of hitting .300 from Charleston Southern, hitting .299 on the season from the plate in the leadoff position for CSU. She leads the team's efforts with six doubles on the year.
Inside the circle, Jennifer Giles has seen a majority of the action for Charleston Southern this season, appearing in 21 of the 23 games CSU has taken the field with 16 starts and 12 complete games on the season. Giles currently posts a 4.90 earned run average and picked up her second win of the season this past weekend against Bethune-Cookman.
Rother and Hayes Holdsworth will also likely see time on the mound this weekend for CSU with Rother sporting a 2-4 record with a 5.13 ERA, while Holdsworth is currently 1-0 and leads the team with a 4.20 ERA.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (17-6)
Mississippi State takes on the College of Charleston on Thursday afternoon in a doubleheader, before making the short trip over to CSU to take on the Buccaneers on Friday afternoon.
The Bulldogs enter the week having split their last four games, taking one game against LSU this past weekend in SEC play, while defeating Jacksonville State on Tuesday evening.
Head Coach Vann Stuedeman's squad is coming off its 10th-straight non-conference victory in the 7-2 triumph at Jacksonville State. The Bulldogs pounded out seven runs on 10 hits, tallying season highs with three doubles and nine walks. MSU ranks 10th in the country in stolen bases per game, with five of MSU's nine starters swiping bags against JSU. In the circle, senior left-hander Stephanie Becker struck out 11 batters in 4.0 innings of work to pick up her fifth victory of the 2013.
Leading the way on offense for Mississippi State on the season is junior Sam Lenahan, who is hitting .362 with 19 RBIs thanks in part to seven doubles and five home runs. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native is top 15 in the country in walks per game with a team-high 23 base on balls, and has tapped the dish 12 times. In road games alone, the right-handed slugger is mashing the ball at a .464 clip with an .857 slugging percentage.
Pitching wise, MSU is anchored by the duo of junior right-hander Alison Owen and Becker. Owen, already a two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week this season, is 9-3 thanks to the NCAA's best strikeout-to-walk ratio (115-to-3). Becker is in the top 20 in the country in strikeouts per seven innings and sports a 5-1 record on the year with a 2.66 ERA.
Longwood Lancers (16-5)
Longwood takes on the University of Virginia on Thursday afternoon before making the trip down to Charleston, S.C. this weekend to take on the Buccaneers.
The Lancers enter on a six game winning streak after sweeping the opposition at the George Mason Invitational this past weekend.
Longwood is currently 2-1 in Big South Conference play, taking two of three games on the road against Winthrop back on March 5-6 in Rock Hill, S.C.
The Lancers have been led on the season by reigning Big South Player of the Week Brooke Short as the senior pitcher/utility player is second on the team with a .483 batting average, while leading LU in the circle with a 10-2 record and 2.29 earned run average in 67.1 innings pitched. Short has also earned BSC Pitcher of the Week honors this season as well and sports a 44:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while sitting second on the team with seven doubles, seven home runs and 29 RBI.
Megan Baltzell leads the Lancers batting efforts with a team-high .492 batting average with 10 home runs, 29 hits, eight doubles and 30 RBI on the year, while also leading the team with seven stolen bases.
Also expected to see time on the mount this weekend for the Lancers is Libby Morris, who enters the weekend with a 6-2 record overall and a 3.77 ERA. Morris also leads the team with six complete games.