CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern softball hosts Longwood University this weekend in a Big South Conference matchup between the Buccaneers and the Lancers, with the action spanning the weekend at the Buccaneer Softball Field as the teams battle through a three-game series in conference action.
Saturday's doubleheader between the Bucs and the Lancers is set to begin at 1 p.m. CSU and Longwood will close out the weekend with a single game scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. Live Stats will be provided on CSUSports.com for all three games on the weekend.
Saturday's festivities at the Buccaneer Softball Field include the Summerville Girls Softball League Day out as the CSU Softball team and Head Coach Shane Winkler welcome the teams to the game. Coach Winkler will provide a post-game talk with the softball teams, while all of the girls will have a chance to meet the 2014 CSU Softball team and get autographs after the second game. Willie Jewell's Old School Bar-B-Q will also be on hand to sell concessions throughout the day.
The Longwood series starts a span of 10 games the Buccaneers will host over the next two weeks as Charleston Southern welcomes the Lancers, Rider (Mar. 18), Presbyterian (Mar. 22-23) and College of Charleston (Mar. 26) to the Buccaneer Softball Field before CSU heads back on the road at the end of the month to take on Liberty.
Last season marked the first time the Buccaneers and the Lancers had met in Big South Conference play following Longwood joining the league in 2012-13. The Lancers took the season series from the Buccaneers, winning all three games at the CSU Softball Field last season, as well as knocking the Bucs out of the Big South Tournament last season on their way to winning the Championship game and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Charleston Southern was selected fifth in the Big South Preseason Coaches' Poll, receiving one first place vote. Longwood, backed by Big South Preseason Player of the Year Megan Baltzell was chosen third in the standings, receiving three first place votes and 67 votes overall to sit behind Campbell and Coastal Carolina.
The Buccaneers enter the weekend leading the Big South Conference following their 2-1 series victory over Winthrop this past week. Charleston Southern took the first two games of the series with 4-2 and 5-1 victories, before falling in Thursday night's finale, 9-0 at Terry Field. Seniors Stephanie Sbardella and Hayes Holdsworth each connected on their second home runs of the season, while junior Jennifer Giles and freshman Cheyenne Gandara each recorded complete game victories to pace the Bucs over the Eagles.
The CSU bats will need to get going early as Charleston Southern takes on the hottest hitting team in the Big South this weekend as the Lancers entered the week pacing all teams with a .293 batting average, while sitting second in the conference with a 2.29 ERA. Charleston Southern entered the week seventh in the conference in batting with a .242 average from the plate, while the CSU pitchers have dominated the circle in posting a 2.78 ERA on the season, third in the conference rankings.
Jessica Brock continues to pace the Charleston Southern offense on the season, ealding the Buccaneers in multiple categories including batting average (.326), hits (28), doubles (8) and RBI (16). She is also second on the team in putouts after taking over the first base position early in the season for head coach Shane Winkler.
Amanda Matsumoto continues to lead the Bucs efforts on the base paths with eight stolen bases in nine attempts and has scored a team-high 15 runs on the season, while Stephanie Sbardella is second on the team with 23 hits and seven doubles, as well as third on the team with 11 RBI and two home runs on the year from the plate.
Inside the circle, Giles and Gandara have asserted themselves into the starting roles for Winkler with Giles posting a team-best 2.33 ERA on the year with three complete games, while Gandara leads the Bucs with six wins and 68 strikeouts in 72.2 innings on the rubber for the Bucs.
Longwood counters the CSU offense on the season with the Big South's leader at the plate in Baltzell as the junior catcher leads the way with a .457 batting average, with 21 hits and eight doubles at the plate. Emily Murphy (.395, 17 runs) and Chelsea Sciacca (.375, eight doubles) are also among the team leaders, while Carly Adams is also hitting over .300 on the season and leads the team with three home runs on the year.
On the rubber, Elizabeth McCarthy and Libby Morris have been the go-to pitchers for the Lancers with McCarthy sporting a 4-2 record and 2.12 ERA on the season, while Morris is 4-3 inside the circle with two saves in 41.2 innings pitched. Jenna Carnes has provided an effective balance for Longwood in limited action with a 0.36 ERA on the year and a perfect 3-0 record in 19.1 innings.