CHARLESTON, S.C. - Cheyenne Gandara picked up wins in both games of the doubleheader and hit the walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning in game two as Charleston Southern defeated Youngstown State 5-2 and 6-5 on Tuesday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field.
Gandara, who earlier in the day was named the Big South The CRONS Brand Pitcher of the Week, improved her conference-leading win total to 11 on the season, equaling her 2014 season total over the first 24 games of the year. She also became the first Big South pitcher on the season to break triple-digits in the strikeout category on the year as her 13 strikeouts over the two games gives her 101 already in the season.
In addition to her performance inside the circle, Gandara (11-4) also capped off the afternoon with the Buccaneers' fifth walk-off at-bat of the season with a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Brook Richardson to close out the Bucs sweep.
"Cheyenne was a one-man show today in the circle," said Winkler of the sophomore ace. "I didn't want to have to go back to her, but we did and she delivered for us. She was just overpowering today."
Natalie Yonan had a big day at the plate for the Bucs who were without the services of the NCAA Division I home run leader in Marci Christian due to a hand injury. The junior shortstop went 4-for-5 from the plate with three doubles, two runs and two RBI on the day, while playing an error-free field.
"We knew that someone was going to have to step up today," Winkler commented. "Natalie is just the perfect example of that. She was really struggling after those first three weekends, but she stuck with it, worker her tail off before and after practice and now the hits are falling."
The Bucs lead the Big South in home runs on the season and are 18th in the nation in home runs per game, but CSU relied on key hits and timely base-running on the afternoon as the Bucs stole a season-high seven bases on the day.
"You've got to be able to win games in multiple ways," said Winkler. "With two hitters like Marci and Cheyenne, it can be easy just to rely on them. We need to find other ways to win though and this upcoming trip to California will tell us a lot about this team. Today, we did just enough to get the wins."
Charleston Southern improves to 16-8 overall with the pair of victories on the season, while Youngstown State falls to 4-8 overall on the season.
The Bucs make their longest road trip of the season this week as they travel to UC Santa Barbara for a doubleheader on Thursday afternoon. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. EST. CSU will close out the weekend at the Easton Tournament hosted by Cal State Fullerton taking on Nebraska, DePaul, Boise State and host Cal State Fullerton.
Game One: Charleston Southern 5, Youngstown State 2
Cheyenne Gandara started and closed out the opening game of the doubleheader against the Penguins while the Buccaneers took advantage of a throwing error early in taking the first game of the day, 5-2.
Gandara hurled a shutout first four innings, before returning in the top of the sixth in relief of Jennifer Giles to record the final four outs of the contest in picking up her 10th win of the season. Gandara recorded nine strikeouts, one shy of her season and career-high, while allowing two hits in the contest.
CSU scored two runs apiece in the bottom of the first and second innings in jumping out to a 4-0 lead over YSU. The first two runners came around in the bottom of the first on Gandara's single down the right field line. The relay from the YSU right fielder rolled into the Bucs dugout allowing Amanda Matsumoto and Stevi Johnson to score on the play to put CSU ahead 2-0.
Two more runs came across in the second inning as Johnson drew a bases-loaded walk from YSU starter Ashley Kozial (2-2) scoring Yonan, while Brook Richardson scored on Gandara's sacrifice fly to the warning track in centerfield.
Youngstown State pushed their first run across in the top of the fifth as Sarah Dowd connected on a two-out solo home run to centerfield. The Penguins added a second run in the top of the sixth as Kelly Thompson-Cappadocio drove in Kayla Haslett on a groundout.
The Bucs plated an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to cap off the scoring with Yonan coming across the plate on a wild pitch.
Natalie Yonan led the Bucs at the plate in the game going 2-for-2 with a double.
Giles was touched for both runs, allowing five hits in 1.2 innings, while giving up two runs in the relief appearance.
Game Two: Charleston Southern 6, Youngstown State 5 (8 inn.)
Gandara pitched a scoreless 2.1 innings in relief and hit the walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning as Charleston Southern completed the sweep over the Penguins with their 6-5 win.
With Richardson placed on second base due to the international tiebreaker rule, Matsumoto dropped a bunt down the third base line, beating it out for a single and moving Richardson to third. After Johnson's popup was collected in the infield, Gandara drove the first pitch from YSU's Caitlyn Minney (1-2) down the right field line deep enough to score Richardson and start the Bucs' celebration at the plate.
The walk-off sacrifice fly was made possible by the Bucs' defense in the top of the eighth inning as Stephanie Baro and Johnson both caught infield fly balls before Gandara retired Katie Smallcomb on strikes to end the frame with the score tied 5-5.
Charleston Southern scored the first run of the contest in the bottom of the first with Gandara ripping a sharp grounder up the middle scoring Matsumoto to put the Bucs up 1-0.
YSU responded with runs in both the top of the second and third as Thompson-Cappadocio drove in Haslett on a grounder to second, while Miranda Castiglione beat out an infield single allowing Maria Lacatena to score to give the Penguins the 2-1 lead.
CSU rallied back in the bottom of the third with Yonan connecting on her second double of the day, this one down the right field line scoring Gandara and Johnson put CSU back on top 3-2.
YSU and CSU traded runs in the fourth with the Penguins scoring on Smallcomb's fielder's choice to tie the game up 3-3. The Bucs pushed two across in the bottom half of the frame with Richardson connecting on a one-out, two-run double in the right centerfield gap scoring Cierra Robinson and Taylor Powell.
Youngstown State sent the game into extra innings with two runs in the top of the sixth on Stevie Taylor's two-run home run off Giles.
CSU's Hayley Elkins went the first four innings inside the circle for the Bucs, allowing three runs (two earned) in the no-decision.