CHARLESTON, S.C. - With four home tournaments, trips to South Carolina and Cal State Fullerton, and home conference clashes against Gardner-Webb, Winthrop, Liberty and Coastal Carolina highlighting the way, head coach Shane Winkler announced the 2015 Charleston Southern Softball Schedule.
One season after winning the 2014 Big South Conference Championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, the Bucs roster features a young team with a lot of experience as CSU returns five players who started as true freshmen in last season's Big South Championship Game.
"I'm excited about the group that we have back this year," said Winkler. "We are having to replace a senior class from a year ago that had a great deal of success in their time here, but I feel like we have the pieces in place to have a great deal of success as this young group gained some valuable experience in meaningful games last season. Our returners have come back stronger than they were last year and with Marci Christian back after her redshirt season and a talented freshman class in place we feel like we have a group capable of competing for another Big South Championship."
Led by returning Big South Tournament MVP in sophomore right-hander Cheyenne Gandara, the Bucs feature six sophomores who lined up in over 30 games last season. Returning seniors Jennifer Giles and Marci Christian also return to provide experience and power for the Bucs in the circle and at the plate.
"Our senior class is small with only having Jen and Marci, but we are expecting a great deal of leadership on and off the field from these two," Winkler commented. "Jen was our ace for most of last season and Marci is getting closer and closer every day to the shape she was in during her junior year when she earned All-Conference honors. I'm looking forward to both of them finishing their careers on high notes."
The CSU Softball Field will be home to four different tournament weekends and the Bucs will be on their home field 33 times in the 2015 season. Last year, CSU went 15-16-1 overall at home.
"It's great getting to play so many games at home on our home field," commented Winkler. "We feel like we have always had an advantage playing in our friendly confines and it's great not having to miss as much class time as some others that have to travel every weekend. We have a challenging home schedule in place this season, but we are looking forward to the tough slate we have both at home and on the road."
The Bucs schedule opens up on the first weekend of February as CSU hosts their first Charleston Southern tournament on February 6-8, featuring Southern Illinois, Ohio State and Maryland-Baltimore County. The next weekend also sees the Bucs at home as CSU hosts Toledo, Howard and Delaware in the second CSU Tournament from February 13-15. CSU continues their home schedule with their third tournament the following weekend on February 20-22 against Tennessee Tech, UNC Wilmington and North Carolina A&T.
CSU's first road trip of the season ends the opening month of the season and opens up March as the Bucs travel up the road to Columbia, S.C., to take part in the Gamecock Invitational hosted by USC. The Bucs will take on host South Carolina, Tennessee State and Marshall over the three-day span running from February 27-March 1.
The Bucs return home to host Loyola-Chicago in a single game on March 4, before hosting their final home tournament of the season on March 6-7, taking on Wright State and Jacksonville State over the two-day event.
Following a home doubleheader on March 10 against Youngstown State, the Bucs embark on their longest trip of the 2015 season, making the flight to the West Coast to participate in the Easton Tournament hosted by Cal State Fullerton. The Bucs will open up the road trip on March 12 with a doubleheader against UC Santa Barbara, before opening play at Anderson Family Field in Fullerton, Calif. on March 13-14. CSU will take on Nebraska, DePaul and Boise State, before closing out the tournament against host CSF in the nightcap on March 14.
Returning from the trip, Charleston Southern jumps right into Big South Conference play as the Bucs host Gardner-Webb in a three-game set on March 21-22. Road conference trips to Radford (Mar. 28-29) and Campbell (Mar. 31-Apr. 1) close out the month.
CSU begins a seven-game home stand on April 3-4 with a three-game slate against Liberty, before stepping out of play for a single game against local rival College of Charleston on April 8. The Bucs home stand finishes on April 11-12 against Liberty.
A conference series on the road at Presbyterian (Apr. 18-19) breaks up the home stand before the Bucs host their final home stand of the 2015 season at home against Coastal Carolina on April 21-22 in a rematch of the 2014 Big South Conference Championship Game.
CSU closes out regular season on the road at Longwood (Apr. 25-26) and a doubleheader against College of Charleston (Apr. 28).
"This year's schedule will be a tough test for us as we are playing a lot of programs that have had a history of success," Winkler said. "We feel like our tough early season schedule will prepare us for the conference portion of our schedule that is going to be tougher than any in recent memory. I believe the Big South is wide open this year. Although Coastal Carolina will be the preseason favorite, there are as many as five schools with the talent to compete for the regular season championship this season. It's going to be a very competitive year."
The 2015 Big South Conference Softball Championships will be held in Buies Creek, N.C. from May 7-10.