CHARLESTON, S.C. - With their first conference weekend out of the way, the Buccaneers look to regroup as they continue 2013 season play this weekend as the Charleston Southern softball team welcomes the Winthrop Eagles to the CSU Softball Field for a three-game series starting on Saturday.
Charleston Southern and Winthrop will begin action on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader, with first pitch of game one scheduled for 2 p.m. The Buccaneers and Eagles will conclude the Big South Conference series on Sunday afternoon, with the teams scheduled to take the field at 1 p.m. for a seven-inning contest.
Charleston Southern looks to bounce back after a difficult opening weekend in Big South Conference play as the Buccaneers fell in all three contests to conference newcomer Longwood University at the CSU Softball Field.
The losses culminated a tough week at home as Charleston Southern went 0-6 inside the friendly confines of their home stadium after returning from the Long Beach State Mayfair Invitational two weeks ago. The Buccaneers closed out the tournament with a 9-6 victory over Bethune-Cookman, but this past week fell to Appalachian State, Mississippi State and Longwood as CSU started an 11-game home stand.
The Buccaneers power bats continued to strike throughout the weekend, connecting on four home runs throughout the weekend as Stephanie Sbardella, Marci Christian, Linzy Rother and Jana Matthews all went deep for CSU.
Matthews' home run was particularly significant as the senior from Boonville, N.C. became the program's career home run leader with her blast to lead off the sixth inning of the first game against Longwood on the weekend. The home run was the 28th of her career, surpassing Megan Lombard's (2009-12) mark of 27 set last season.
This weekend marks both teams' second foray into Big South Conference play, with both teams taking on a common opponent in Longwood.
Charleston Southern fell in all three games to the Lancers this past weekend, while Longwood took two of three games from Winthrop. The Eagles were victories in the second game against the Lancers, winning 12-10 thanks to home runs by McKenzi Corn and Kathryn Eberlin.
In the annual preseason Big South Coaches Poll, Charleston Southern was picked second overall by the Big South head coaching staff, while Winthrop was selected eighth overall.
Flashing back to last year, the Buccaneers swept Winthrop in Rock Hill, S.C. in a three-game series, winning 1-0, 4-2 and 3-1 against the Eagles.
Morgan Dowdy picked up two wins in the weekend series, while Megan Lombard punctuated a four-run rally in the second game with a three-run home run to lead the Buccaneers to the sweep.
Marci Christian, Stephanie Sbardella and Trea Steele lead the Charleston Southern offense in the 2013 season, with Christian and Sbardella both hitting over .300, while Steele is tied for the team-lead with 26 hits, while hitting .299 on the year.
Christian's bat has paced the Buccaneers this season, hitting .333 with 26 hits, and leads the team in the power categories with six home runs and 22 runs batted in, while scoring 13 runs in lining up all over the field for head coach Shane Winkler, starting at first base, catcher and outfield.
Sbardella is also hitting .333 on the year, but saw her career-high 18 game on-base streak end this past week in the first game against Longwood. The junior third baseman leads the team with 19 runs scored and has contributed four doubles and four home runs on offense this season. Her 13 walks are also a team-high, leading to a .449 on-base percentage on the year.
Steele leads the team with seven doubles and 16 runs in the leadoff position for the Buccaneers, while Rother has come on strong lately, hitting four home runs in the past seven games, and has added six doubles to her totals on the year.
On the mound, Jennifer Giles enters the weekend as the Big South Conference leader in innings pitched (119.1), appearances (24), games started (18), complete games (13) and strikeouts (68). The sophomore from Jupiter, Fla. sports a 2-16 record and a 5.16 earned run average.
Rother has come on strong on the mound for the Buccaneeers this season with a 2-6 record and 5.78 ERA, pitching 40.0 innings with 16 strikeouts, while Hayes Holdsworth has also seen time on the mound with six appearances and one start.
Winthrop Eagles Team Preview
The Eagles enter the week with a 12-13 record overall, traveling to Appalachian State on Wednesday afternoon before making the trip down to Charleston, S.C. to take on the Buccaneers.
Since the series against Longwood, the Eagles have won five of their last eight, winning four games at the Winthrop Adidas Invitational and taking one of two from Western Carolina last week. Two of Winthrop's losses came to nationally ranked teams in No. 24 Georgia and No. 8 Tennessee.
McKenzi Corn and Chelsey Schoenfeldt lead the Winthrop offense on the season, with Corn hitting .405 overall, while Schoenfeldt is also hitting over .300 on the year. Corn leads the team with 30 hits and seven doubles overall, while Schoenfeldt is the team leader with 19 runs, two triples, seven home runs and 28 RBI, while hitting .314 from the plate on the season.
Sutton Watson leads the pitching efforts for the Eagles on the season with an 8-8 record in 20 appearances with 15 games started and nine complete games, while sporting a 3.77 ERA in 85.1 innings pitched. Sara Allen (2-2, 4.79 ERA) and Dallas King (2-1, 3.32 ERA) have also seen double-digit appearances on the mound this season for Winthrop.