Bucs remain undefeated at the Willie Jewell's Invitational with wins over UNC Wilmington and N.C. A&T

Bucs remain undefeated at the Willie Jewell's Invitational with wins over UNC Wilmington and N.C. A&T

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern defeated UNC Wilmington and North Carolina A&T on the second day of the Willie Jewell's Invitational at CSU to remain undefeated on the weekend as the Buccaneers topped the Seahawks, 6-2, in the first game, and rallied around their big bats in topping the Aggies in the nightcap, 9-1.

The Buccaneers used an opportunistic offense in scoring four unearned runs on four errors in their first game of the day against UNCW, breaking open a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of Seahawks' errors.

"We were good in spurts today in terms of our mental approach," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "We were able to take advantage of both team's mistakes in our games. That was really big, especially in the first game. We didn't really swing our bats very well, but we were able to capitalize when we needed to. The approach we need to take the rest of the year is not to wait for something to happen, but we need to bring that positive energy because of our approach and aggressiveness."

For the second time in as many days the Buccaneers connected on a trio of home runs against North Carolina A&T with Marci Christian going deep twice for the second time this season, while Cheyenne Gandara connected on her second home run in as many days.

"We know we have the ability to hit the ball out of the park," said Winkler on the Bucs' 15 round-trippers hit over the first 11 games. "We have to be able to win in different ways. We have to be able to produce runs when opposing teams make mistakes and capitalize. We drew walks, we got runners on and we put the ball in play today. The biggest thing is to keep putting pressure on the opposing team's pitcher."

Jennifer Giles (2-1) and Gandara (5-2) were the recipients of the Buccaneers wins inside the circle today. Giles went six strong innings in the first game against the Seahawks, while Gandara recorded her first career double-digit strikeout performance in the nightcap against the Aggies, striking out 10 over six innings in the win.

"Both pitchers threw extremely well today," commented Winkler. "We had a few batters here and there where we lost focus, but it was almost complete domination from both of them for an entire game. If we can focus like that one pitch at a time, then those two are tough to beat and makes us a really tough team to beat."

The Buccaneers will have their work cut out for them on Sunday afternoon as the Bucs will face the other team who went undefeated on Saturday in Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles topped UNC Wilmington, 2-1, in the first game of the day and rallied from behind to defeat N.C. A&T in the second game, 6-3.

"Tennessee Tech is a very good team," Winkler said. "They've played in some close games and have really good pitching. They have the ability to put up some numbers offensively as well. It will be a nice test for us and a great way to finish the weekend.

First pitch in the Sunday doubleheader between CSU and Tennessee Tech at the Willie Jewell's Invitational is set for 1 p.m.

Game One: Charleston Southern 6, UNC Wilmington 2

A four-run sixth inning proved to be the difference for the Buccaneers as CSU took advantage of two errors on Natalie Yonan's grounder, while Brook Richardson singled in a pair as the Bucs topped UNCW in their first game of the day, 6-2.

Stevi Johnson and Taylor Powell reached on back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the sixth and advanced on Brooke Lein's sacrifice bunt as the Bucs looked to retake the lead in the frame against UNCW starter Casey Rowland (1-1). Yonan followed up with a grounder to second deep enough to score Johnson, but on the bobble the hit before throwing it away, allowing Powell to score on the play and leaving Yonan standing on second to put the Bucs ahead 4-2.

Two batters later, Richardson followed a Matsumoto bunt single with a bouncer up the middle off of reliever Peyton Jordan through the infield allowing both runners to score and giving the Bucs the commanding 6-2 advantage.

Gandara came in relief of Giles in the top of the seventh, striking out the first two batters before Lein caught a popup on the third base line to end the contest in favor of the Bucs.

Giles went the first six innings in the game for CSU, scattering four hits while striking out four in her second win of the season.

The Bucs plated the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the second inning to take the early lead. Johnson again opened the opportunity reaching base on a walk, while Lein also drew a walk to put runners at the corners with one out. A sacrifice bunt by Yonan advanced both into scoring position before Matsumoto connected on a short grounder down the third base line. The fleet-footed sophomore beat the throw and the ball skipped away from the UNCW first baseman allowing both runners to score as CSU went up 2-0.

The Seahawks battled back to tie the game up as UNCW plated runs in both the third and fourth innings. Sarah Davis singled in Merritt Wilkinson in the top of the third, while Kelsey Bryan connected on a one-out sacrifice fly to score Darian Roberts in the fourth to put the score at 2-2.

Matsumoto led the Bucs from the plate going 2-for-2 with an RBI and run scored. Johnson added a pair of runs in the contest.

Game Two: Charleston Southern 9, North Carolina A&T 1 (6 inn.)

Marci Christian connected on a pair of home runs and Cheyenne Gandara added her fifth home run as the Buccaneers slugged their way past the Aggies in the final game on Saturday. Gandara also went the distance inside the circle, recording the first double-digit strikeout performance of her collegiate career in allowing only three hits in her second win of the weekend.

Christian went deep in both of her first two at-bats and added a double to lead off the bottom of the sixth in finishing the game in going 3-for-3 with four runs and four RBI in the contest. It was the second multi-homer game of the season for the redshirt senior and third of her career as she continues to move up the CSU career record book with 24 home runs.

Gandara followed up Christian's blast with a solo shot in the bottom of the first before the freshman right-hander settled in for another signature performance inside the circle. She went the distance, striking out two batters in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings on her way to a career-high 10 in the contest.

Christian started the CSU offense with a bang in the bottom of the first inning connecting on a three-run shot scoring both Amanda Matsumoto and Brook Richardson to put the Bucs ahead 3-0. Gandara followed up five pitches later with a solo home run as the Bucs went back-to-back for the second time this season in staking CSU to the 4-0 lead.

The lead reached 5-0 on a Christian solo home run to left to lead off the third, while Gandara and Baro drew bases-loaded walks and Gandara scored on a wild pitch to put the margin 8-0 following four innings.

N.C. A&T extended the game an extra frame in the top of the fifth as the Aggies scored on Syerra Askew's RBI single to left, driving in N.C. A&T starter Janika May (1-2).

Lexie Vanada nearly led the Bucs to the finish in the bottom of the fifth as the sophomore connected on her first career triple, before CSU closed out the contest in the bottom of the sixth on Taylor Powell's walk-off RBI double scoring Christian.

Powell's double was her first collegiate extra-base hit and rose the Summerville native's batting average to .600 on the season.

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