CHARLESTON, S.C. - A busy weekend awaits the final home stand of the Charleston Southern softball team as the Buccaneers take on Gardner-Webb in a Big South Conference weekend series.
The Bucs will host Strikeout Cancer during Saturday afternoon's doubleheader against the Runnin' Bulldogs, while CSU recognizes their 2013 seniors prior to Sunday's home finale. First pitch in Saturday's doubleheader is set for 2 p.m. at the CSU Softball Field, while Sunday's game is slated to begin at 1 p.m.
Saturday's StrikeOut Cancer games are the third season in a row the Buccaneers have hosted the event. The StrikeOut Cancer initiative unites the American Cancer Society and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association to help raise funds and awareness to fight cancer. The program leverages the personal experiences, community leadership, and professional excellence of fastpitch softball coaches nationwide to help increase cancer education and promote healthy living through awareness efforts and fundraising activities. The Buccaneers will be selling t-shirts for $10, with proceeds going to a local organization.
Sunday's Senior Day Festivities see the Buccaneers recognize the career accomplishments of their six 2013 Charleston Southern seniors. During the pregame ceremony, Charleston Southern and head coach Shane Winkler will recognize seniors Jasmine Conley, Courtney Konyk, Jana Matthews, Linzy Rother, Trea Steele and Melanie Stickney.
The Buccaneers and Runnin' Bulldogs open up the weekend with both teams searching for wins after disappointing starts to the 2013 Big South Conference season.
Charleston Southern enters the weekend with a 10-36 record, 3-15 overall in conference play, while Gardner-Webb sports a 9-27 overall record, 4-14 in Big South action as the teams currently sit eighth and ninth overall in the conference rankings.
For the Bucs, the season has been one of ups and downs, but Charleston Southern has seen their fortunes turn around recently as CSU has won four of their last eight games, including picking up the conference series win against Liberty, as well as the series opening win against current Big South leader Campbell.
Gardner-Webb has also seen their season go on the upswing recently with the Runnin' Bulldogs picking up victories in five of their past seven games, including picking up the series win over Presbyterian, as well as a sweep over North Carolina A&T this past Tuesday afternoon.
Charleston Southern enters the weekend coming off of a loss on Tuesday to Coastal Carolina, falling 6-5, as a solo home run by Kiana Quolas helped Coastal Carolina hold off and complete the season sweep over Charleston Southern
Jana Matthews connected on her ninth home run of the season and 34th of her career in the top of the fifth inning to tie the contest in the top of the fifth inning as the senior left fielder drilled the ball over the left centerfield fence in the loss to pace the Bucs offense in the game.
For the season, power-hitting catcher Marci Christian continues to pace the Bucs offense from the plate, leading the way with a .353 batting average with a team-high 48 hits, eight doubles and 29 RBI. She has also tied the CSU single-season record for home runs with 12 for the 2013 season, tying fellow teammate Matthews' record established back in 2010.
Stephanie Sbardella is also hitting above .300 on the season, connecting at the plate on a .314 clip, leading the team with 33 runs scored, while sitting second with 37 hits overall. She also has added eight home runs and 25 RBI to her totals, and leads the team with 11 hit by pitches on the year.
Matthews is also surging forward among the CSU statistical leaders improving from a .203 batting average early in the season to hitting .274 with hits in seven of the past eight games, including five home runs during the span. The senior from Boonville, N.C. is currently second on the team with nine home runs and 28 RBI, while seeing time at all three outfield positions and second base on the season.
On the mound, Jennifer Giles continues to take the ball as the sophomore right-hander leads the Big South Conference with 203.0 innings pitched, as well as appearances (41), game started (32) and complete games (22). She sports a 5.59 earned run average with a 6-26 record, sitting fifth in the conference with 108 strikeouts.
Gardner-Webb, on the other hand, has been led by Samantha Meenaghan and Morgan Baker at the plate, while Ashley Rhyne and Jessica Childers have seen a majority of the action on the mound.
Meenaghan leads the Runnin' Bulldogs on the season with a .405 batting average, connecting on 51 hits, two triples and three home runs on the year. Baker is the main power threat for the GWU lineup, leading the way with seven home runs on the year and 30 RBI, while hitting at a .327 clip on the season.
On the mound, Rhyne sports a 5-11 overall record with a 5.43 earned run average, connecting on 47 strikeouts, while Childers leads the way with two shutouts on the season with a 3-10 record and 6-.85 earned run average.