ROCK HILL, S.C. - The Charleston Southern tournament run during the 2013 Big South Softball Championships came to an end on Friday evening as the No. 9 Buccaneers fell to the powerful bats of No. 3 Longwood at Terry Field, 8-2.
Longwood advances to take on No. 2 Campbell tomorrow morning with first pitch scheduled for 9 a.m. The Camels advanced with their 4-3 win over Liberty on Friday afternoon. Charleston Southern sees their season end with a final record of 15-40.
"Hats off to Longwood, to me that's the team to beat out there; I wouldn't be halfway surprised if they won the whole thing," commented head coach Shane Winkler following the contest. "Jen really threw much better than the score indicated and we really needed to take really good care of the ball in this game. The biggest thing is we really did show fight today. Jen grew up 100 percent over this weekend and CSU as a program will be back, I promise."
Jennifer Giles tied the CSU single season appearance mark in the contest, making her 50th appearance on the mound in the contest, tying a record set back in 2002 by Dana Jacobs. However, four consecutive tough games in the tournament wore of the sophomore right-hander as she pitched five strong innings before running out of steam in the sixth as the Lancers posted four runs in the frame to put the game away.
"Jen left it all out there on the mound this weekend," said Winkler on Giles' performance overall. "You cannot ask for anything more than what we got from that kid. She really grew up this weekend and she is going to be a special, special pitcher in the conference next year."
Giles finished the contest going the distance in allowing eight hits and eight runs (seven earned) with three strikeouts and four walks. She led the Buccaneers on the weekend, throwing a herculean 468 pitches over the four games in the tournament, picking up 25 strikeouts while walking 10 in 25.1 innings.
Libby Morris went six innings in picking up the win for the Lancers in the contest, throwing a complete game in scattering five hits and allowing one run, while striking out three. Ashley Cornell closed out the game, allowing one run in the top of the seventh before closing out the game.
Charleston Southern broke open a scoreless game in the top of the third inning, as Stephanie Sbardella singled in Ari Tedesco with one out in the inning.
Natalie Yonan and Tedesco led off the inning with back-to-back singles, but a fielder's choice on a grounder by Marci Christian forced Yonan out at third. Three pitches later, Sbardella rifled a single to straightaway centerfield, scoring the fleet-footed Tedesco from second for the opening run of the contest.
The Lancers responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning to even the score.
Jamie Barbour drew a walk to open up the frame and Katie Shinrock followed with a bouncing single through the left side of the drawn-in infield. A fielder's choice on Kori Nishitomi's grounder back up the middle forced out Barbour, while Megan Baltzell popped out to Giles on the mound for the second out. With the pressure on, Brooke Short delivered for the Lancers, beating out an infield single to second base and Shinrock took advantage of the CSU confusion to come around to score on the play, knotting the game up at 1-1 after three innings.
After a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fourth by Morris, Emily Murphy gave the Lancers their first lead of the contest with a two-run home run over the centerfield fence. The home run came with no one out in the frame and brought in Carly Adams who had led off the inning by drawing a walk.
The Lancers threatened to increase their lead in the top of the fifth, putting runners on the corners with two outs as Nishitomi and Chelsea Sciacca were perched on base. A standout play by Stephanie Sbardella on Sciacca's grounder forced Baltzell at second base and created the runners at the corners situation, but Adams popped up to Melanie Stickney at second base to end the inning, keeping the score intact at 3-1 in favor of Longwood.
The Buccaneers started off the top of the sixth in promising fashion as Sbardella knocked a base hit up the middle to open the inning and Matthews' soft line drive was kicked away in the infield, but due to having to freeze on the line drive, Sbardella was thrown out at second. A second fielder's choice on Linzy Rother's grounder left the Bucs with two out and a runner on first base and Morris retired the side, getting strike three on Holdsworth to end the inning.
Nishitomi continued to have the hot bat on the day for Longwood, coming up with another clutch hit in this game after hitting the go-ahead home run in the Lancers victory over Gardner-Webb this morning.
The sophomore left fielder lined a double into the right centerfield gap with two outs in the sixth inning, driving in Barbour and Murphy on the play to provide two more insurance runs for Longwood. Baltzell added an RBI single and Brooke Short connected on an RBI double in the left centerfield gap. An error brought across Short for the final run of the inning before Giles caught Murphy looking at strike three to end the inning.
Courtney Konyk led off the top of the seventh with a soft line drive to left field which skipped off the glove of a diving Casey Lifsey, allowing the senior to reach second on the error. After a strike out, Jasmine Conley connected on a sharp grounder to third, advancing Konyk to the hot corner with two outs and a throwing error by Cornell on Tedesco's grounder up the middle brought her home.
However, the Bucs rally fell short as Cornell retired Christian on a ground out to end the game in favor of the Lancers, 8-2.
"Work starts for us again tomorrow," commented Winkler on the season coming to a close. "The girls need to have a bad taste in their mouth from this year and we need to get back to work this summer. We get a great group coming in next year, have some hurt kids coming back and this program will be back."