CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern softball is back in action this weekend as the Buccaneers host their final spring tournament of the 2014 season, welcoming Appalachian State, Colgate and Eastern Illinois to the CSU Softball Field from February 28 – March 2.
Opening game of the tournament features Eastern Illinois against Appalachian State at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, while CSU takes on Eastern Illinois at 1 p.m. for their tournament opener. Fan parking for the tournament will be at the football stadium parking lot. Live Stats will be provided for each game on the CSU Softball Tournament page.
The Buccaneers enter the weekend looking to bounce back from a doubleheader sweep this past Tuesday against USC Upstate which saw Charleston Southern struggle in the field against the Spartans with five errors over the two games. CSU fell in the opener to USC Upstate 7-4, while dropping the nightcap 6-0.
This is the third tournament Charleston Southern has hosted on the season as the Buccaneers took on Maryland-Eastern Shore, UNC Wilmington and Elon over the first week of the season, posting a 4-0-1 record in play against the opposition. CSU continued in the second weekend, hosting Jacksonville State and St. Bonaventure in posting a 3-2 record at home over the three day event.
Charleston Southern is currently 6-4-1 overall inside the friendly confines of Buccaneer Field and a large part of that is due to the powerful bats of Marci Christian, Jessica Brock and Stephanie Sbardella.
Christian enters the weekend boasting a .350 batting average and is currently third in the Big South standings in home runs with four on the year, as well as tied for second in doubles with four on the season. She is third in the conference with 12 RBI and second in the Big South with 11 runs scored in the first month of her senior campaign.
Brock, fully healthy and back from an injury suffered a year ago, has picked up where she left off in pacing the Bucs with a .319 batting average on the season, with 15 hits in 47 at-bats. She is also tied for second in the Big South with four doubles on the year and is second in the Big South with 13 RBI on the season.
Sbardella continues to impress, playing a stellar right field in addition to providing punch in the CSU lineup with a team-high .372 batting average, good for 10th in the Big South standings. The senior outfielder has reached base successfully over the last seven games and leads the team with 16 hits. She also connected on her first home run of the year last weekend at the Unconquered Classic against Northern Iowa.
The Buccaneers feature a strong quartet inside the circle this season as well with seniors Morgan Dowdy and Lauren Darden, junior Jennifer Giles and freshman Cheyenne Gandara all spending time on the rubber for head coach Shane Winkler this year.
Dowdy features the lowest ERA on the squad at 1.85 while opponents are hitting .213 against the senior right-hander. Gandara has provided the power inside the circle with an impressive 32:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 33.2 innings, while Giles boasts three victories and a complete-game victory over Wichita State. Darden has also seen action in seven games this season, picking up a save against St. Bonaventure as the staff has compiled three shutouts on the year.
The Buccaneers will need all cylinders clicking this weekend as they head to South Carolina next week before closing out tournament play on the year at the UCLA/CSUN Invitational from March 7-9. Charleston Southern opens up Big South play on March 12-13 against Winthrop, before their Big South home opener on March 15-16 against Longwood.
The Mountaineers are coming off two wins at the Blues City Classic in Memphis, Tenn. With wins over Murray State and Alabama A&M, the Mountaineers finished sixth in the 11 team field last weekend. True freshman Cara Parker led the Apps over the weekend batting .455 with one RBI and scoring five runs while earning all-tournament second-team honors.
Parker leads App State on the season with a .500 batting average and two triples, while Cynthia Gomez (.433, 13 hits) and Dani Heichen (.306, 5 runs) is also among the team's offensive leaders. Shivaun Landeros has seen a majority of the action inside the circle on the year with 10 appearances and seven starts resulting in a 4.48 ERA and five complete games. Sydney Laws and Alissa Schoelkopf will also see action on the rubber over the weekend.
Head coach Melissa Finley is in her second year at the helm of Colgate softball and leads the Raiders into the 2014 season. Colgate was projected to finish fourth in conference play, according to the Preseason Coaches Poll. This is the Raiders season opener, with Colgate taking on Eastern Illinois in the tournament opener at 9 a.m.
Colgate qualified for the postseason in 2013 and looks to make another appearance behind preseason All-Patriot selections Mariel Schlaefer and seniors Tera Vaughn and Haley Fleming. Schlaefer hit .301 for the Raiders and was second in the league with seven home runs. Vaughn, an outfielder, hit .292 a year ago and Fleming posted a solid .372 on base percentage while splitting time between shortstop and outfield.
The Panthers enter the weekend as the lone team sporting a winning record at the tournament after taking three of four games at the Jackson State Invitational, including wins over Kansas and host Jackson State. The Panthers have won seven of their last nine contest behind the bats of Brooke Owens and Hannah Cole as the duo are both hitting over .400 on the season.
Owens leads the way with a .426 batting average, three home runs and 12 runs scored, while Cole leads the team with five doubles, two triples and 13 RBI. Inside the circle, three Panthers have split time with Stephanie Maday leading the way with a 1.98 ERA and five complete games. Hanna Mennenga boasts a 4-1 record with a 33:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year.