CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern split with visiting Tennessee Tech on the final day of the Willie Jewell's Invitational at CSU, falling in the first game to the Golden Eagles, 6-4, while rallying behind a pair of Marci Christian home runs to top TTU in the nightcap, 8-5.
The Buccaneers went 4-1 on the weekend with a sweep over N.C. A&T and wins over UNC Wilmington and Tennessee Tech in improving to 9-4 overall on the year. CSU still struggled at times on their approach though as head coach Shane Winkler sees ways the Bucs can continue to improve in the tournament season.
"Our approach needs to be getting better every day throughout the season," Winkler said. "We thought we were a good enough team to get through this weekend 5-0. We need to get back to the basics which is focusing on one pitch at a time and making sure we know what we are doing with every pitch."
Sunday's action saw redshirt senior first baseman Marci Christian go deep twice for the second time in as many days, connecting on a solo shot in the bottom of the third before hitting the go-ahead three-run blast in the bottom of the sixth to clinch the win.
"Marci has the ability to be as good as anybody in this conference," said Winkler. "She is as powerful as anyone in this conference. If she is consistent game in and game out, our lineup becomes very, very tough."
Stevi Johnson also connected on her first home run of the 2015 season in leading the Bucs from the plate on the day. Johnson finished the afternoon with a team-high four hits and finished with three runs and one RBI.
"Stevi was our best player in the fall and through January," Winkler commented. "She started out a little slow those first two weekends, but we know she can produce for us. She has swung an amazing bat and we knew it was in there."
Charleston Southern is back in action next weekend at the Carolina Classic hosted by South Carolina on February 27-28. CSU takes on South Alabama and South Carolina on the first day of the tournament and close out the weekend on Saturday against Marshall and Tennessee State.
Game One: Tennessee Tech 6, Charleston Southern 4
Stevi Johnson connected on her first home run of the season and Cheyenne Gandara struck out 10 batters for the second straight game, but it was not enough for the Bucs as Tennessee Tech took advantage of home runs by Bennett and Richards in topping CSU, 6-4.
The Bucs opened up the scoring in the bottom of the second as Johnson led off the frame with a solo home run that cleared the fence in right center to put CSU ahead early.
The Golden Eagles took the lead in the top of the 5th, snapping open a close game as Madison Taylor singled in Sabrie Neeb before Taylor followed with a two-run shot to centerfield to put the visitors up 3-1.
Tennessee Tech added two more in the top of the 6th with Neeb driving in a run on a sacrifice bunt and Angi Sakamoto singled in Hannah Eldridge to put the score at 5-1.
The Bucs put three on the board to battle back in the bottom half of the inning as Stephanie Baro sacrificed in Gandara, while Yonan added an RBI single and Richardson brought in a run on a bases-loaded walk.
CSU was unable to generate their offense in the bottom of the seventh in falling in game one.
Game Two: Charleston Southern 8, Tennessee Tech 5
Marci Christian shook off a tough first game in connecting on the game-winning home run in the bottom of the sixth to give the Bucs the split on Sunday afternoon.
Christian's blast, her team-leading seventh of the season, scored Matsumoto and Georgi DeLio to give the Bucs the 8-5 lead.
Gandara entered the game in relief for the Bucs in the top of the seventh and set the Golden Eagles down in order 1-2-3 to end the contest and pick up her first save of the season.
DeLio singled in Johnson in the bottom of the second to open the scoring in the game and the Bucs added runs in the third and fourth to build a 4-1 lead. Christian connected on a solo home run in the third, while Lexie Vanada and Yonan drew bases-loaded walks to push the Bucs to the lead.
Tennessee Tech rallied back in the top of the fifth with Callen Griffin doubling in Gabby Perez, while Bayli Cruse connected on the two-run home run to cap the inning and give the Golden Eagles the 5-4 lead.
The Bucs tied the game up in the bottom of the fifth as Brittany McPherson scored on a throwing error before Christian's heroics in the bottom of the sixth.