CHARLESTON, S.C. - For the fourth time this season Charleston Southern went undefeated on the opening day of the CSU Tournament at the CSU Softball Field as the Buccaneers topped Wright State, 6-2, in the early contest, while blanking Iona, 8-0, in the nightcap on Friday afternoon.
The pair of wins was the fourth time the Buccaneers (13-7) won all of their games on the opening day of their home tournament slate this season with CSU topping UMBC twice on February 6, Delaware and Howard on February 13, N.C. A&T on February 20, before today's sweep of the Raiders and the Gaels.
As has been the common theme among CSU's tournament wins, the Buccaneers jumped ahead early against both Wright State (0-13) and Iona (0-4). CSU scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the first against the Raiders in the early contest, while sending 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third in scoring six runs against the Gaels.
"As a coach, two things make you feel comfortable," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "Playing at home and scoring first. We did both today and put ourselves in a comfortable position for our two pitchers who threw extremely well."
Jennifer Giles (4-3) went the distance for the Bucs in the first game for her fifth complete game of the season, scattering four hits while striking out a season-high six batters. Cheyenne Gandara (8-4) went the distance in the nightcap for her third shutout of the season, striking eight along the way in a complete game three-hitter.
"Jen in the first game goes seven innings, while Cheyenne goes five and each one had more strikeouts than hits given up," said Winkler on the pitching staff's efforts. "All in all, it was a good game for both of them."
Stevi Johnson again swung the hot bat for the Bucs on the day tying for the team lead with three hits, while clearing the bases with a bases with a three-run double in the bottom of the fourth to seal the Bucs win over Wright State. Since February 22nd, Johnson is second on the team with 10 hits while leading the Bucs with nine runs scored a two doubles in boosting her season average to .294.
"We've been getting some big power numbers from Cheyenne and Marci (Christian), but we knew Stevi was going to come around," Winkler commented. "She's been one of our better hitters all year and other players have been stepping up as well. The biggest thing is consistency one through nine in our lineup and we're working on that every day."
Christian and Gandara have been arguably the best power-hitting duo in the Big South this year with Christian connecting on her 10th home run against Wright State, while Gandara drilled her ninth of the season against Iona. The duo have already homered in the same game three times this season and with tournament play going on, have combined to leave the yard on the same date four times this year.
"You don't want to say you expect it, but that's the way it's been," Winkler said on the Bucs power duo. "We're going to keep riding the hot streak and hopefully they continue to push each other. It's been fun to watch. If they can do that and continue to put up big numbers with everyone else starting to hit around them, we'll continue to be successful."
Charleston Southern closes out the weekend schedule tomorrow afternoon at the CSU Tournament, hosting Jacksonville State at 1 p.m. and Iona at 3 p.m.
Game One: Charleston Southern 6, Wright State 2
Stevi Johnson cleared the bases with a three-run double in the bottom of the fourth and Jennifer Giles struck out a season-high six batters as Charleston Southern topped Wright State in their weekend opener, 6-2.
Marci Christian connected on her team-leading 10th home run of the season to lead off the bottom of the third and added a sacrifice fly, while Gandara had an RBI sacrifice fly in the first in contributing to CSU's scoring efforts.
Giles went the distance in the game, settling down after allowing two runs in the fifth to strike out the side in the sixth on her way to retiring the final seven batters of the game in preserving the CSU victory. The senior right-hander from Jupiter, Fla. scattered four hits and two runs (one earned) in her fourth win of the season.
The Buccaneers scored first in the contest as Amanda Matsumoto led off with a walk and stole second to open the bottom of the first inning. Three batters later, Gandara connected on a deep fly ball to right field allowing Matsumoto to score and put the Bucs ahead 1-0.
CSU doubled their lead in the bottom of the third as Christian drilled a one-out offering to straightaway centerfield for her 10th of the season. It's the second time in three seasons Christian has reached double-digits in the home runs category after setting the Bucs single season record in 2013 with 15 home runs.
Johnson provided the scoring for CSU in the bottom of the fourth as the Bucs loaded the bases with one out as Taylor Powell and Matsumoto singles sandwiched Brook Richardson reaching on an error. Johnson followed up with a shot in the right centerfield gap, clearing the Wright State right fielder and allowing all three runners to score on the play. She came around to score five pitches later as Christian connected on the sacrifice fly to left field to give the Bucs the 6-0 lead.
Wright State took two back in the top of the fifth as Macey Gunther singled in Angie Clark. Gunther later came around to score on a CSU fielding error to put the margin at 6-2.
Giles and the Bucs shut down the Raiders the rest of the way in closing out the victory.
Game Two: Charleston Southern 8, Iona 0 (5 inn.)
Cheyenne Gandara hurled her third shutout of the season and added a home run from the plate as the Bucs took advantage of a six-run third inning to top Iona in the final game of the first day of the CSU Tournament.
Gandara's home run, her ninth of the season, sparked a six-run bottom of the third that saw CSU send 11 batters to the plate with Brook Richardson driving in two runs with a single up the middle, while Yonan and Gandara again driving in runs in the frame.
The sophomore hurler faced four batters over the minimum in the game, allowing three hits while striking out eight in her eighth win of the season.
Gandara struck out five Gaels over the first two innings before the Bucs opened up the contest in the bottom of the second. Gandara's solo home run sparked the frame that saw the Bucs load the bases three separate times in plating six runs. Yonan had an RBI walk, Richardson drove in two with a single and Gandara brought in two on a fielder's choice against Iona starter Jordan Courage (0-2).
The Bucs added the final two runs in the bottom of the fourth as Georgi DeLio singled in Johnson and Matsumoto, while the Gaels went down in the top of the fifth to end the contest.