CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues one of the most successful seasons in program history this weekend as the Buccaneers make the trip to Knoxville, Tenn., joining No. 10-seed and host University of Tennessee, Lipscomb and Virginia Tech at the Knoxville Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament on the road to 2014 Women's College World Series.
The Buccaneers open up the double-elimination tournament against the 2013 Women's College World Series runner-up in the host Lady Volunteers at 6 p.m. on Friday night at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, while Virginia Tech and Lipscomb will face each other in the first game of the weekend at 3:30 p.m. Live Video and Live Stats for the bracket will be provided on UTSports.com.
On Saturday, the winners from both of Friday's games will play in Game 3 at 2 p.m. ET. The losers from Friday's games will play in Game 4 at 4:30 p.m. ET. The loser from Game 3 will face the loser from Game 4 at 7 p.m. ET.
Sunday's 2 p.m. ET Game 6 will feature the winner from Game 3 against the winner from Game 5. The two teams will play again in Game 7 at 4:30 p.m. ET, if necessary. The games will be streamed live on UTSports.com.
Game times and ticket prices for the entire weekend have been announced and available all-session bleacher-back ticket packages went on sale to the public on Monday, May 12, at 8:30 a.m. ET online at UTTIX.com, over the phone at 865-656-1200 or in-person at the Tennessee ticket office. There is a limit of six tickets per customer/account. The bleacher-back all-session package is $25 and includes tickets for all three days of the Knoxville Regional.
Super Regionals and Beyond
The 16 teams advancing from the Regional rounds continue in the 2014 NCAA Super Regionals which will be held from May 22-25, while the Women's College World Series will be held at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, Okla., from May 29-June 4.
Recapping the Charleston Southern Big South Championship Run
Charleston Southern makes their first NCAA postseason appearance due to CSU's Championship run through the 2014 Big South Conference Championships. The Buccaneers defeated Longwood (twice) and Presbyterian in making their way to Sunday afternoon's championship game against Coastal Carolina.
The Buccaneers advanced to the 2014 NCAA Tournament on the back of the second Big South Championship in program history as No. 7-seed Charleston Southern defeated No. 1 Coastal Carolina on Sunday afternoon, 3-1. 2014 Big South Tournament MVP Cheyenne Gandara had arguably one of the best pitching performances in her short career with the Buccaneers as the freshman right-hander from Hemet, Calif., hurled a complete game three-hit shutout against Coastal Carolina to clinch the NCAA Tournament berth.
Freshman Ace and Tournament MVP
Gandara's weekend performance capped off one of the best pitching stretches in Charleston Southern history as the fire-balling right-hander hurled a complete game victory in the tournament opener against No. 2 Longwood, guiding the Bucs past the Lancers with eight strikeouts in the 5-2 win. She came in the next night to shut the door against No. 6 Presbyterian and keep CSU in the winner's bracket, bouncing back from allowing a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to strike out the final three batters of the game to preserve the Bucs 4-3 win over the Blue Hose. Saturday's game against Longwood, she came in the bottom of the fourth to shut down a bases-loaded rally against the Lancers, setting down the final 10 batters in order over the last 3.1 innings for her second win of the tournament. The tournament finale, in her signature performance to date, she battled through the first five innings before retiring the final eight batters over the last three innings to shut down the Chanticleers and set the Buccaneers dancing on the CCU Softball Field.
Big South All-Tournament Squad
Signature performances on the weekend also came from all over the Charleston Southern squad as the Buccaneers hit .325 from the plate, while the trio of Gandara, Jennifer Giles and Morgan Dowdy allowed the opposing hitters to hit .238 in their at-bats over the four game span.
Bergmann led the Charleston Southern offense and defensive efforts on the weekend for the Buccaneers as the shortstop from Hesperia, Calif., was slotted in the cleanup spot for Head Coach Shane Winkler. She responded with two hits apiece in each of the first three games, as well as doubles against Presbyterian and Longwood, while playing perfect defense in the field. She finished the weekend hitting .500 from the plate and snagged the game-winning line drive to end the Big South Championship Game, tossing her glove aside after securing the catch and jumping into the dog pile inside the pitcher's circle.
Matsumoto set the table for the Buccaneers offense all weekend in the tournament, hitting in the leadoff spot for Charleston Southern while lining up in centerfield on the weekend. The Palatine, Ill., native made her Big South Tournament debut one to remember as the freshman set a Big South newcomer record with four hits in her first four at-bats in the CSU opening win against Longwood. She finished the tournament leading CSU with seven hits overall, hitting .467 from the plate with three runs scored and a pair of RBI.
Sbardella, as the lone senior to crack the freshmen All-Tournament squad by Charleston Southern, connected on a towering solo shot down the left field line to open up the Buccaneers' game against Presbyterian, and finished hitting .400 from the plate while playing an error-free first base for CSU. The Fairfax Station, Va., native had six hits and a team-high four runs scored on the weekend, often setting the table for Bergmann and freshman right fielder Stevi Johnson in batting in the three-hole for CSU.
Scouting the Buccaneers
Overall, the Buccaneers bats have been led on the season by Big South All-Conference Second Team utility player Jessica Brock.
Brock, who leads the Buccaneers in all major batting categories, is hitting a team-high .320 from the plate with 54 hits, six home runs and 32 RBI on the season. The Puyallup, Wash., native made her mark on the Myrtle Beach landscape this past weekend with a moonshot that affectionately became referred to as the "palmball" when her three-run blast in the top of the fourth against Longwood lodged itself into the palmetto tree next to the flag pole in straightaway centerfield at the CCU Softball Field. The home run put the Buccaneers on their way to the Big South title game, where she collected two more hits and a run scored to send the Bucs to the NCAA tournament. Brock finished second on the team with 11 doubles on the season while lining up at both first and second base for CSU in the field.
Matsumoto bounced back from missing a stretch of eight games in the middle of the season to finish second on the team with a .299 batting average. She led CSU with 27 runs scored and 12 stolen bases, adding a team-high three triples to her resume. Sbardella also narrowly missed out on the .300 batting mark, hitting .297 from the plate in sitting second on the team in multiple categories including runs, hits, home runs and RBI. Sbardella led CSU with 13 doubles.
Inside the circle, Gandara and Giles saw a majority of the action for the Buccaneers on the rubber with Gandara leading the team with a 2.25 ERA, 38 appearances, 21 starts, 12 complete games, two shutouts, two saves and 152 strikeouts. Gandara and Giles tied for the team lead with 11 wins overall on the year. Giles finished close behind her freshman counterpart with a 2.42 ERA on the season with a team-high 22 starts for Winkler on the season. One year after tying the CSU mark with 50 appearances on the season, Giles added 36 more to her totals with opponents hitting only .235 from the plate against the Jupiter, Fla. native.
Graduate student Morgan Dowdy also returned for her final campaign and contributed in a big way to the CSU lineup on the season with 25 appearances in the circle. The Charleston Southern single season strikeout leader with 165 strikeouts in the 2012 season, the Pleasanton, Calif., native added 72.1 innings to her career totals on the season with two complete games and one save. Dowdy and Brock both bounced back from injuries last season to contribute key roles to the CSU lineup on the year.
Scouting the Volunteers
No. 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament Field, Tennessee is the favorite to emerge from the region after falling in the Women's College World Series Championship Game last season to Oklahoma. The Lady Vols fell in the SEC Quarterfinals to cap off a season that saw the team go 42-10 overall, 17-8 in the powerful Southeastern Conference that sent a tournament-high 11 teams to the postseason.
Playing inside the friendly confines of Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, Tennessee went 19-3 overall on the year. They have not played against anyone in the current bracket in the 2014 season.
Led by Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, the Lady Vols have 43 years' experience and over 2,000 career wins in the dugout. Tennessee enters the tournament ranked No. 7/7 in both the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and the ESPN/USA Softball Poll.
Madison Shipman leads the Volunteers offense on the season with a .429 batting average with 52 runs scored, 15 doubles and 17 home runs. Ellen Renfroe is the Tennessee leader with a 26-6 overall record inside the circle with a 2.07 ERA and 27 complete games. Renfroe has posted a 221:61 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season.
Scouting the Hokies
Virginia Tech enters the tournament looking to rebound after getting knocked out the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on the second day, falling to Notre Dame, 9-6. The Hokies went 35-21 overall, 19-9 in ACC games on the season in earning an at-large bid to the tournament.
Led by Head Coach Scot Thomas in his 19th season with the program, the Hokies roster features All-ACC selections Lauren Gaskill, Kylie McGoldrick and Katey Smith.
Gaskill finished third on the team with a .327 batting average, finishing second on the team with 54 hits and 39 runs scored. She is also the team leader with 16 stolen bases. McGoldrick led the way for the Hokies with a .346 batting average with 56 hits and 44 runs scored, while Smith finished second on the team with nine home runs and two triples, while hitting .319 from the plate.
Scouting the Bison
Lipscomb enters the tournament with their first at-large bid in program history, as one of three teams to make the field from the Atlantic Sun Conference joining USC Upstate and Stetson in the field. The Bison went 39-13 overall on the season, 18-8 in the A-Sun on the year. Lipscomb topped Virginia Tech in their lone meeting on the season, defeating the Hokies 2-1 in the Music City Classic to open the season.
Head Coach Kristin Ryman is in her ninth season with the program with the Bison roster featuring five players on the A-Sun All-Conference Team including First Team selections Pagie Neely and Kelsey Cartwright.
Neely leads the way for the Lipscomb offense on the season, hitting .376 from the plate with a team-high 68 hits, 13 doubles and three triples on the season. She added 31 RBI to her totals and 10 stolen bases along the way. Kelsey Cartwright was also a First Team selection with 39 RBI and seven home runs, as well as nine doubles on the year.
Making Their Way through the Record Books
Several Charleston Southern players are potentially on the brink of achieving single season marks as we enter the NCAA Regional tournament. The duo of Stephanie Sbardella and Stephanie Bergmann are currently tied for fifth overall in games played in a season as the Stephanie duo are the only players on the CSU roster to have started in all 59 games on the season. Both players are one game from moving into second all-time in a three-way tie with Dorothy Page, Ashley Robinson and Jill Shondel all in the 2005 season. The single season record for games played is 62 overall set on Jacqui Mines on 2005.
Cheyenne Gandara can also potentially set a Charleston Southern single season record over the weekend as the freshman ace sits 13 strikeouts behind tying the CSU single season record of 165 set just two seasons ago by teammate Morgan Dowdy. Gandara, who averages 6.6 strikeouts per game, advanced from sixth into second place this past weekend with 19 strikeouts in her four appearances in the Big South Conference Tournament.
Other Buccaneers who are currently making their way up the single season record books include Sbardella who is currently fourth in doubles with 13, as well as Gandara again in saves with two. Sbardella sits six doubles behind record holder Jill Shondel (2008), while Gandara is two saves behind Dowdy's four set in 2012.
Charleston Southern also has numerous players cracking the top 10 in multiple categories in the CSU career record books with Sbardella leading the way as the senior is listed in 11 categories including: batting average, at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, total bases and games played. Brock is also listed in batting average, at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs and total bases, while fellow senior Marci Christian, who is redshirted in 2014 after an injury sustained early in the season, is fourth all-time in program history with 19 career home runs.
Among the pitching career records, it's the Morgan Dowdy Show, with the senior ace sitting among the program's all-time leaders in wins, ERA, strikeouts, appearances, starts, complete games, solo shutouts and innings pitched. Dowdy is also the program's all-time leader with eight career saves, with the mark putting her in the top 10 all-time in the Big South record books. Giles is also listed in multiple pitching categories including: wins, ERA, strikeouts, appearances, starts, solo shutouts, innings pitched and saves. In just one season, Gandara has also broken into the top 10, sitting 10th all-time with 152 career strikeouts and sixth with two saves.
Among the career fielding leaders, Brock is sixth overall in the record books with 280 assists, while fellow senior Ari Tedesco is fifth all-time in fielding percentage at .975.
Historically Against the Bracket Field
Since the 2000 season, Charleston Southern has taken on tournament host Tennessee three times, falling to the Lady Volunteers 9-0 back in 2005, and twice last season at the Buccaneer Invitational, 8-1 and 10-3. During the same span, Charleston Southern has split and gone 2-2 against Lipscomb with a 4-3 win in 2008 and a 4-3 win in 2009, while falling 11-1 in 2008 and 3-0 in 2009. The Buccaneers have been undefeated against Virginia Tech since the 2008 season, winning by matching 6-0 scores in 2008 and 2010, while defeating the Hokies 10-9 in 2011.
The Big South against the Knoxville Bracket in 2014
Teams from the Big South Conference have played against both Virginia Tech and Tennessee on the season, but no one has faced off against Lipscomb on the year. Campbell was the lone Big South team to take on the Volunteers, falling on March 7th at the Tennessee Invitational in a tight contest, 1-0. The Lady Vols scored on a walk-off throwing error to defeat the Camels.
The Big South went 1-4 on the year against Virginia Tech, with Longwood picking up the lone victory over the Hokies in the second game of a doubleheader, winning 3-0 in Farmville, Va. The Hokies took the first game, 5-3, over the Lancers and added an 11-0 win over Liberty and a doubleheader sweep of 2-1 and 4-2 over Radford.
Buccaneers against Ranked Opponents
Charleston Southern went 0-4 this season against opponents ranked in the top 25 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll. The Buccaneers fell 8-2 to #3 Florida State on February 21 at the Unconquered Classic and 4-0 to #2 UCLA at the UCLA/CSUN Invitational on March 7. CSU also fell twice to #21/24USC Upstate on February 25th at the CSU Softball Field, 7-4 and 6-0. Charleston Southern faces #7/7 Tennessee to open NCAA Regional Play. The last time CSU has defeated a ranked team came back in the 2010 season when CSU defeated #15 Louisville, 9-4, at the Buccaneer Invitational on February 20.
Big South in the NCAAs
Charleston Southern became the ninth different institution in Big South Conference history to make the NCAA Tournament and the fifth different institution in the past five years to make it, joining fellow tournament champions Longwood (2013), Coastal Carolina (2012), Liberty (2011) and Radford (2010) in making the dance. Overall, the Big South Conference has posted a 9-34 record in tournament play with Coastal Carolina and Radford recording three wins apiece to pace the conference leaders. Two teams in Big South history have made the NCAA Regional finals including Radford in 2010 and Winthrop in the 2007 season.
Last Season against the Lady Vols
Charleston Southern fell in both games against Tennessee last season in the Buccaneer Invitational, 8-1 and 10-3. The Volunteers used a seven-run fifth inning to snap a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning in taking the opening contest against CSU, while a three-run inside the park home run by Marci Christian was not enough to spark a comeback attempt for the Bucs in the final game of the tournament against the Lady Vols. Tennessee sent all nine batters to the plate in the top of the first to give the Lady Vols a 5-0 lead they would not relinquish.
Tennessee and Charleston Southern Ties
Charleston Southern head coach Shane Winkler takes over as the head coach of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) organization Chicago Bandits this season, returning to the professional level since last working with the Bandits as an assistant back in the 2009 season. Winkler returns to the Bandits after several stints in the NPF, working with the Bandits as an assistant coach in 2009, as well as as the associate field manager with the Akron Racers in 2007.
Among the players on the roster include current Charleston Southern Assistant Coach Kristen Butler, as well as former Tennessee alum and NCAA record holder Monica Abbott. Butler, the 2006 SEC Player of the Year, led the Florida Gators in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage in her senior season, setting the school record for single season home runs with 17 in 2006 and was just the second player in school history to record more than 50 RBI in a season with 52. Butler serves as one of the catchers of the Bandits and is among the all-time leaders in the NPF in home runs and RBI.
One of the stars of the Bandits' organization, Abbott was a four year standout at the University of Tennessee from 2004-07, setting NCAA Division I career records with 2,440 strikeouts, 112 shutouts and 189 victories during her time with the Lady Vols. The four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American became the first softball All-American in UT history. She was also a three-time All-Women's College World Series Team selection and SEC Conference pitcher of the Year, setting the NCAA single season strikeout record with 724 strikeouts on the year. She also finished her collegiate career with 23 career no-hitters and six perfect games. In her professional career, Abbott is a two-time World Championship Gold Medalist and hurled the first ever perfect game in the Olympics against the Netherlands.
Charleston Southern University
Founded in 1964, Charleston Southern is located near historic Charleston and the beautiful beaches of the South Carolina coastline. Charleston Southern is one of South Carolina's largest accredited, independent universities, enrolling 3,300 students and is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. The University's vision is to be a Christian university nationally recognized for integrating faith in learning, leading and serving.
CSU has been named to America's 100 Best College Buys, Military Friendly Schools, America's Best Christian Colleges, VA Yellow Ribbon Program and The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The University is accredited by the Commission on College of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor's degrees in 45 majors and master's degrees in business, criminal justice, education, nursing, organizational management and organizational leadership.
Situated on 300 acres, formerly the site of a rice and indigo plantation, Charleston Southern University is in the center of the Charleston metropolitan area. Mild winters and long summers allow many opportunities for outdoor recreation in a city which is famous for its gardens and plantations, miles of wide sandy beaches and major fine arts events, including the Spoleto Festival USA.