CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern returns to the field this weekend as the Buccaneers make their final road trip of the 2013 regular season, traveling up I-26 to Clinton, S.C. to take on the Presbyterian Blue Hose for the three game series beginning on Saturday afternoon.
The Bucs and Blue Hose open play at the PC Softball Complex on May 4 with first pitch on Saturday's doubleheader set for 1 p.m., while CSU and PC close out play on Sunday afternoon with play set for 1 p.m. Live Stats will be provided for all three games, courtesy of the Presbyterian Sports Information Department.
The weekend matches up the Buccaneers and Blue Hose in what could be a preview of the opening game of the 2013 Big South Conference Championships as both teams have struggled in conference play this season.
Charleston Southern comes into the weekend with an 11-38 record, 4-17 in Big South play, while Presbyterian comes in with a 22-28 record, 7-14 in conference action on the season.
The Bucs look to build up momentum heading into the tournament, entering this weekend following a two week break due to exams, and CSU is ready to get back onto the field after celebrating Senior Day in their final home stand against Gardner-Webb on April 20-21.
During the three game series against the Runnin' Bulldogs, Charleston Southern took the first game in Sunday's doubleheader against GWU, but Gardner-Webb took the series from the Bucs, winning the first game and the series finale.
Morgan Baker sparked the Runnin' Bulldogs to the opening 7-1 victory, connecting on a three-run home run as Gardner-Webb scored seven runs in the top of the fourth in taking the win.
Sunday's opener saw a back-and-forth affair between CSU and GWU as the action picked up late in the contest with the Runnin' Bulldogs knotting the game up 3-3 in the top of the seventh. Marci Christian made CSU history in the bottom of the seventh though, connecting on a one-out walk-off solo home run for her 13th home run of the season, breaking Jana Matthews' previous record of 12 set back in 2010.
Melanie Stickney kept the bats going in the final game of the series, connecting on a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning to put the Bucs ahead early, but the Runnin' Bulldogs rallied with four runs in the top of the fifth capped by Savannah Burns' two-run single in closing out the 7-4 win.
The Bucs' fortunes have been turning in the past two weeks, picking up wins in each of the past three conference series, including two of the three wins over Liberty and the series opening win over Campbell, propelled by the bats of Marci Christian and Jana Matthews, as well as the strong pitching by Jennifer Giles.
Christian has led the Buccaneers bats all season, pacing the CSU efforts with .345 batting average, with 50 hits, including 21 for extra bases in leading the Bucs in both home runs (13) and doubles (8). She also leads the team with 30 RBI and is second with 31 runs scored on the season. If the season ended today, she would have set another CSU single season record with a .669 slugging percentage in 2013.
Matthews, one of six seniors on the Buccaneers softball team, enters her final regular season games with CSU this weekend continuing her hot streak with hits in nine of the last 11 games, boosting her batting average up to .280 on the season after sitting at .203 at the midway point of the season. Matthews overcame an eye injury suffered on the first day of the Gardner-Webb series to rally back with three hits, including a double on Sunday to cap Senior Day. The CSU career leader in home runs, she is second on the team with nine blasts on the season, with seven doubles and a triple on the year.
Junior third baseman Stephanie Sbardella is also having a standout season for the Buccaneers, hitting .323 from the plate and is second on the team with 40 hits, while connecting on eight home runs and six doubles. She also leads the team in on-base percentage, getting on base at a .463 clip, drawing 24 walks and 11 hit by pitches on the season, while scoring a team-high 35 runs.
Sophomore Giles has taken the bulk of the pitching duties for the Bucs on the season and leads both CSU and the Big South Conference in multiple categories on the mound, including appearances, starts, innings and complete games, while sitting among the leaders in strikeouts as well. The right-hander from Jupiter, Fla. looks to enter the CSU single season record books this week, currently with 216.2 innings pitched, 44 appearances, 35 games started and 23 complete games on the year, with 114 strikeouts. She also leads the Big South in catching batters looking on 46 strikeouts.
Presbyterian comes into the weekend winners of conference series over both Winthrop and this past weekend over Longwood to improve to 7-14 in Big South Conference play.
The Blue Hose picked up 6-2 and 4-2 victories over the Lancers this past weekend with Cat Tarvin driving in a bases-clearing triple in the first game, while Erin Taylor drove in a pair of runs with a double in the second game.
Four batters are hitting over .300 on the season for the Blue Hose as Erin Ruff paces the team's efforts with a .326 batting average, scoring a team high 33 runs on the year. Tarvin has provided the power and consistency to the Presbyterian offense, leading the way with 51 hits, 10 doubles and two triples, while also seeing time on the mound. Shelby Petik leads the team with 11 home runs, while Jill McLean and Tera Powell have eight stolen bases apiece.
On the mound, Kensley Loudermelk leads the team 29 appearances on the rubber, starting 26 games with 14 complete games. She sports a 12-13 record with a 4.30 earned run average in 145.0 innings pitched and has a 96:69 strikeout-to-walk ratio.