CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Charleston Southern softball team and head coach Shane Winkler announced the signing of Arizona Pilgrim, Caitlyn Emberson, Destini Ewing, Jade Gandara and Lexi Thompson during the early signing period as the quintet will join the CSU squad in the 2015-16 season.
The five signees bring a blend of pitching and power to the Charleston Southern squad who enters the 2015 season as the reigning Big South Conference Champions after a season which saw the Bucs sweep through the Big South Tournament on their way to the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history.
"This has the potential to be a very special class for our program," commented Winkler on the early signees. "Offensively this class brings in a ton of power and athleticism with the ability to fill many different positions on the field. The game is still about pitching and in addition to our new offensive threats we are also adding a power pitcher that has the potential to win a lot of games in the Big South Conference for years to come. We are graduating two very good players with some tough shoes to fill in Marci Christian and Jen Giles and this group has the potential to build on the success that they have had here in their careers and hopefully take our program to even greater heights. There is a lot to be excited about for the future of our program and talented classes like this just add to that excitement."
The Buccaneers open up the 2015 regular season with their first CSU Tournament scheduled for February 6-8 against UMBC, Southern Illinois and Ohio State. CSU opens up the season on February 6 against UMBC with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.
Pilgrim comes to Charleston, S.C., by way of Taft, Calif. and Taft Union High School. She lined inside the circle and first base for the Fresno Force 18 Gold. Pilgrim was a three-time All-League selection and was named the Co-MVP in the South Sequoia League. Among her other accolades and highlights include being a Max Preps All-American in her junior season, as well as being a two-time Max Preps All-State selection. She was also a member of the Cal High Sports All-State Team in her junior season.
Winkler on Pilgrim - "Arizona is going to be a great addition to our pitching staff. She is a power pitcher and has the ability to grow into an "Ace" in our conference. She will complement an already deep pitching staff very well and the sky is the limit for her potential in the circle."
Emberson comes to Charleston, S.C., by way of Taft, Calif. and Taft Union High School. She lined up at catcher, first and third base as well for the Fresno Force 18 Gold. Emberson has hit above .500 since the 2012 season with a career-high .597 batting average coming in 2013 where she added 10 home runs and 54 RBI. To date in her high school career, she has posted career totals of 29 home runs, 165 RBI and 143 runs scored.
Among her career accolades, she was named a 2014 Max Preps All-American and has been a three-time Max Preps All-State selection. She has also been selected to the Cal High Sports All-State team twice and is a three-time Kern County All-Area Team selection. She is also the reigning three-time MVP of the South Sequoia League.
Winkler on Emberson - "Caitlyn is going to be fun to watch in a Buccaneer uniform. She has the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat with her power and she does a great job behind the plate. I believe she has the ability to be an impact player for us immediately in the middle of our lineup."
Ewing comes to Charleston, S.C. and the Bucs by way of Grove City, Ohio, and Grove City High School where she lined up primarily at shortstop. She also lined up for the Beverly Bandits/Team Demarini travel club. She is a four-time letter-winner at Grove City and led the team in home runs in both her sophomore and junior seasons. Among her career accolades include being named to the First Team OCC in her junior season. This season in her senior year, Ewing was selected as the Team Captain.
Winkler on Ewing - "Destini will bring a lot to our program both offensively and defensively. She has an extremely quick bat and will produce some big time power numbers offensively and she has the ability to play either middle infield position at a high level. We are excited about her being in the navy and gold next year."
Gandara comes to Charleston, S.C. and the Bucs and will join her sister Cheyenne on the CSU roster next season, coming to the Bucs from Hemet, Calif., and Hemet High School. Gandara also lined up for the 18I Gold Minors Gold travel team as a utility player. Gandara has posted a .448 batting average with 95 hits and 48 RBI. She also has 21 doubles, eight triples and five career home runs in her high school playing career. Among her accolades include being a two-time First Team All-League selection and being key to the 2013 CIF Championship squad as the team won it for the first time in school history.
Winkler on Gandara - "Jade is a great athlete that I believe can be a true "Triple-Threat" offensive player and she has the ability to play all over the field defensively. With her sister, Cheyenne, here already it was a great fit to bring Jade in as well. I'm excited about her potential as a table setter and run producer in our lineup. She's going to be fun to coach."
Thompson comes to the Bucs by way of West Ashley High School in Charleston, S.C., where she lined up in multiple positions including catcher and the infield. Thompson also played on the Carolina Fire travel team. She has been a standout catcher at West Ashley since joining the squad in her seventh grade season and has led the team in multiple hitting categories including doubles, triples and home runs since the 2012 season. Among her accolades she is a two-time All-Region 7 selection and was a 2014 All-Lowcountry Honorable Mention pick. She is a two-time team Defensive MVP selection at West Ashley.
Winkler on Thompson - "Lexi is an extremely hard worker that has the ability to contribute behind the plate and in the infield. I have seen her grow as a player over the past few years here locally and I'm extremely excited for her to be staying home to player here at Charleston Southern. She's the type of student athlete we are proud to have in the Buccaneer Family."