CHARLESTON, S.C. - Cheyenne Gandara and Marci Christian both homered and Gandara hurled her sixth complete game of the season as Charleston Southern topped visiting Loyola Chicago on Wednesday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field, 4-2.
With the Bucs (11-7) trailing in the bottom of the first, Gandara (7-4) connected on a three-run shot to give CSU a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the contest as the sophomore right-hander helped her cause in striking out eight in her seventh victory of the season. Loyola Chicago falls to 6-9 overall on the season with the loss.
"Cheyenne threw extremely well," commented CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "There were a couple of mistakes in the first inning that lead to some unearned runs that we'd like to avoid, but we overcame it because she hit a three-run shot of her own. She led us today in the circle and at the plate. She did a great job and we got two home runs when we needed them. We had enough, just enough, to get by today."
Gandara and Christian continue to have the big bats in the CSU lineup this season as Gandara connected on her eighth home run, while Christian's solo shot in the bottom of the third was her team-leading ninth of the season. The slugging duo is 1-2 at the top of the Big South Conference individual home run rankings based on the last released statistics.
"The middle of our lineup can really produce and we saw that today," Winkler said. "What we need is more consistency throughout the lineup. The nice thing is we've got a lot of games in the next couple of weeks to get that timing in, to get that good feeling in. These next two weeks are really important for us as we try and round out our lineup a little bit and see who is going to play as we get into conference."
The Buccaneers remain at home this weekend where they have posted a 10-4 record so far on the year as CSU hosts their fourth and final CSU Tournament of the spring. Among the four-team tournament field is Wright State, Jacksonville State, Iona and the Bucs. First pitch on Friday is set for 9 a.m. between Jacksonville State and Wright State, while the Bucs open the weekend against Wright State with first pitch projected for 1 p.m.
"It has been really nice, especially the way the weather has been all over the country so far this season," said Winkler. "We've got teams calling us every week to try and play in our tournaments because we are getting in all of our games. There have been so many games canceled around the country this season due to bad weather. We are getting to play at home and the girls are playing in their element. It really is a luxury right now to take advantage of and the team has responded well. "
Loyola opened the scoring in the top of the first, taking advantage of a CSU error to plate two runs and take the early lead. A throwing error on Hannah Jenkins grounder in front of the mound allowed Brooke Wyderski and Ashley Parenti to cross the plate and put the Ramblers ahead 2-0.
The Bucs bats responded in the bottom of the inning as Amanda Matsumoto connected on her fourth double of the season to lead off the frame, driving the ball to the fence in centerfield. After Christian drew a one-out walk, Gandara connected on the first pitch offered from Loyola starter Madison Hope (4-4) for a three-run shot clearing the left field fence near the scoreboard to put the Bucs ahead 3-2.
CSU added to their lead in the bottom of the third as Christian led off the frame with her 28th career home run with the Bucs, driving a shot over the centerfield fence to put the Bucs ahead 4-2. The solo home run pushed Christian into sole possession of second place all-time in the CSU career record books, passing Megan Lombard (27, 2009-12).
Gandara, meanwhile, faced two batters over the minimum over the final five innings to close out the Bucs victory, allowing singles to Annie Korth in the fourth and Wyderski in the sixth.
Matsumoto and Natalie Yonan were also among CSU's top hitters on the day with two hits apiece.