CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern rallied from five down in the game, putting across the tying run in the bottom of the sixth behind a strong pitching performance by Cheyenne Gandara, but nightfall overtook the field as the Charleston Southern Tournament finale between CSU and Elon ended in a 5-5 tie on Sunday afternoon.
With the Phoenix staked to five early runs, Charleston Southern battled back behind a Marci Christian solo home run and RBI hits by Jessica Brock, Natalie Yonan and Stephanie Sbardella to back a strong pitching performance by Gandara to tie the game up at 5-5 after six innings of play. Both teams put runners in scoring position in their half of the seventh inning, but neither team was able to push across the winning run as the game was called due to player safety as night fell over the stadium.
Gandara came in relief of CSU starter Jennifer Giles and twirled a gem out on the mound for the Bucs, going 7.0 innings in scattering six hits. The freshman right-hander added eight strikeouts while allowing two runs in closing out a strong collegiate opening weekend which saw her pick up wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and UNC Wilmington.
Brock went 3-for-4 from the plate for the Bucs and added two RBI with a pair of doubles off the fence in left centerfield, while Christian, Stephanie Bergmann, Yonan and Amanda Matsumoto all had multiple hits in the game for the Buccaneers in the tie.
Emily Cameron connected on two of Elon's three home runs in the contest, connecting on a three-run shot in the first inning and added a solo home run in the top of the third to pace the Phoenix offense in the game. Emily Roper added a solo home run of her own to the totals, while Aly Quintana had a pair of hits for Elon in the contest.
Chelsea White started the game for Elon, going 5.1 innings in the contest in scattering 11 hits, while giving up all five CSU runs. Ali Burdette closed out the final 1.2 innings in the game, striking out two batters while allowing one hit.
Elon jumped on Giles in the top of the first inning as the first three batters all came around to score in the frame. Carleigh Nester led off the inning reaching on a walk, while Ali Ford reached base on her sacrifice bunt attempt as CSU was unable to cleaning field the play at first base. With two on, and facing an 0-2 count, Cameron connected on a towering drive down the left field line that settled just over the fence in putting the Phoenix ahead 3-0. Gandara entered following the home run and struck out the next two batters in escaping the frame.
Elon added two more in the top of the third as Cameron connected on her second home run of the day, driving the two-out offering over the right centerfield fence to put the Phoenix lead at 4-0. Roper followed four pitches later, giving Elon back-to-back home runs and putting the Phoenix ahead, 5-0. Gandara ended the inning by catching Carey Million looking at strike three to end the frame.
The Buccaneers battled their way back into the game in the bottom of the fourth as Christian smoked the 1-1 offering from White off the back fence for a line drive home run to put Charleston Southern on the board.
Charleston Southern halved the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning as Yonan and Matsumoto sparked the CSU offense in the frame. Yonan led off with a double over the head of the Elon right fielder, and Matsumoto followed with a bunt single to put two on with runners on the corners with none out. Matsumoto took advantage of the Elon defense in stealing second, but White nearly escaped the inning with back-to-back strikeouts. Brock, however, answered with a double to the fence in right centerfield, scoring Yonan and Matsumoto to cut the CSU deficit down to 5-3.
After Gandara downed the Phoenix offense in the top of the sixth, Charleston Southern knotted the game up in the bottom half of the inning as the Buccaneers put two runners in scoring position with one out as Bergmann connected on a double and Georgi DeLio singled. With Lizzy Olmstead in to run for DeLio, the Buccaneers pushed the first run across as Bergmann scored on Yonan's infield single. Two batters later, Sbardella reached on a fielder's choice allowing Olmstead to score the tying run and pulling the Bucs even at 5-5.
Elon threatened in the top of the sixth as Carleigh Nester and Ali Ford both advanced into scoring position with two outs on a passed ball, however Gandara escaped the jam by getting Grace Eng to pop out to end the inning and keep the Phoenix scoreless.
Brock nearly ended the game with one swing in the bottom half of the inning, connecting on the 2-2 offering from Burdette and sending a line drive to the fence in left centerfield. However, the ball was stopped by the fence as the CSU senior hustled in for the double to put the Bucs in scoring position with none out. A walk issued to Hayes Holdsworth put two CSU runners on base, but with nightfall approaching, Burdette rallied in striking out two of the final three batters to close out the inning and end the contest.
Charleston Southern continues the 2014 season next weekend as the Buccaneers host St. Bonaventure, Maine and Jacksonville State at the Charleston Southern Tournament to be played at the CSU Softball Field. CSU opens up tournament play on February 14th against St. Bonaventure at 1 p.m. and will take on Jacksonville State in the nightcap of the day at 3 p.m.