CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern softball makes their longest road trip of the season this weekend as the Buccaneers head across the nation to play in the UCLA/CSUN Invitational hosted by UCLA and Cal State Northridge this weekend.
Action starts on Friday for the Bucs as CSU takes on Oregon State and UNLV in the opener, while the Bucs take on UCLA and CSU Bakersfield on Saturday. All four games over the first two days will be played at Easton Stadium on the campus of UCLA. Sunday's contest between Charleston Southern and Cal State Northridge will be held on the campus of CSUN. Live Stats and all tournament links will be posted on CSUsports.com.
Charleston Southern enters the weekend with a 10-9-1 overall record on the season following their final CSU tournament of the spring, which saw the Buccaneers top Eastern Illinois and Colgate, while falling to Appalachian State.
The Buccaneers so far on the season have been led by the bats of senior trio Jessica Brock, Stephanie Sbardella and Marci Christian, as well as standout freshman Amanda Matsumoto, while Natalie Yonan and Georgi DeLio made massive strides over the last week in raising their batting averages significantly.
Among the regulars in head coach Shane Winkler's lineup, Brock has paved the way for the Buccaneers as the senior from Puyallup, Wash., leads the team with a .350 batting average and 21 hits on the season, as well as 15 RBI. She adds four doubles, two home runs and a triple to her totals, while lining up at both second and first on the CSU defensive end.
Sbardella looks to bounce back from a bit of a slump this past weekend, but enters the final tournament before the Buccaneers open conference play next week with a .345 batting average while leading the team with six doubles. The Fairfax Station, Va., native also has one home run on the season and is second on the team with 20 hits on the year.
Christian has been the power threat for the Bucs from the plate this year with a team-leading four home runs. One year after setting the CSU single season home run record with 16 dingers, Christian is hitting .341 from the plate and is tied for the team lead with 12 runs scored and has 12 RBI.
Matsumoto is also hitting above .300 in her first collegiate season, with a .314 batting average while starting every game for the Buccaneers in centerfield. The Palatine, Ill., native also leads the Buccaneers with seven stolen bases in eight chances, while scoring a team-high 12 runs on the year.
DeLio broke out last weekend with a .417 batting average from the plate and added two doubles and three runs scored, while playing sterling defense for CSU from behind the plate. She raised her average up to a season-high .278 on the season and is second on the team with five doubles on the year. Yonan was close behind from the plate, connecting at a .364 clip to raise her season average to .286. She added a pair of clutch doubles on the week, including what turned out to be the game-winner against Eastern Illinois in the tournament opener.
Gandara paces the CSU efforts on the season with a 2.10 earned run average this season and boasts a 4-3 record, coming off of her first collegiate shutout in the CSU 8-0 win over Colgate. She also paces the team's efforts with 45 strikeouts on the season in 43.1 innings pitched.
Giles matches Gandara's record with four wins on the year and leads the Buccaneers with two complete games and seven starts on the rubber. Dowdy boasts a 2.51 ERA in her first season back from injury and hurled a complete game in her last start against Appalachian State. Darden picked up a win in the CSU opening tournament against Maryland-Eastern Shore and continues to work her way into the rotation.
Charleston Southern opens up Big South Conference play on their return from their California road trip, opening on the road on March 12-13 at Winthrop, while hosting Longwood on March 15-16 at the CSU Softball Field.