CHARLESTON, S.C. - Marci Christian homered for the 13th time this season as Charleston Southern split with Gardner-Webb on Saturday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field, winning the first game 9-6, while falling in the late afternoon game 6-0.
Christian's home run was her first in since March 7th as the Big South home run leader drilled a two-run shot to put the Bucs ahead 2-0 in the first inning of game one against the Runnin' Bulldogs. Amanda Matsumoto also was among CSU's leaders with four hits on the day, while Cheyenne Gandara added to her Big South leading RBI totals in driving in three runs in the first game as the Bucs took the season series from the Runnin' Bulldogs for the second consecutive season.
The Buccaneers pitching staff combined for 20 strikeouts inside the circle on the afternoon, but wins pushing the ball up and out past the fence in left field led to a combined eight home runs hit in the game with Gardner-Webb connecting on six long balls in the contest.
Hayley Elkins, in her first collegiate at-bat, drilled a solo home run for the Bucs in the bottom of the sixth inning, while Jordan Evans also made her batting debut with a two-out double to left center as the Bucs utilized their entire bench in the opening game with all 18 players seeing time on the field.
Charleston Southern heads to the road next weekend as the Bucs make the trip to Radford, Va., and the Radford Softball Stadium for a three-game set against the Highlanders running from March 28-29. The Bucs-Highlanders contest on March 28th will be streamed live on ESPN3 with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Game One: Charleston Southern 9, Gardner-Webb 6
Christian and Elkins homered and Jennifer Giles struck out a season-high nine batters through four innings as the Buccaneers held off Gardner-Webb in the first game of the doubleheader, 9-6.
The victory clinched CSU's first home series victory over the Runnin' Bulldogs since the 2009 season as the Buccaneers scored eight runs over the first three innings in taking the victory.
Matsumoto went 4-for-4 from the plate with three runs scored, while Gandara went 2-for-3 with three RBI as the Buccaneers connected on 12 hits in the contest in support of Jennifer Giles (6-6). Giles went four innings in scattering six hits and giving up two runs before giving way to Elkins in the fifth. Elkins closed out the contest going the final three innings in recording her first save of the season, striking out one.
Christian wasted little time in putting the Bucs up early in the bottom of the first, drilling the first pitch she saw from Ashley Wark (1-7) over the centerfield fence scoring Matsumoto to put the Bucs ahead 2-0.
Amanda Gomes connected on a solo home run for the Runnin' Bulldogs in the top of the second to halve the CSU lead, but the Bucs responded in the bottom of the frame by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring four runs to stretch their advantage to 6-1. Gandara drew a bases-loaded walk scoring Taylor Powell and Stevi Johnson connected on an RBI single for the first two runs of the frame. Stephanie Baro provided the final two runs with a base hit down the left field line scoring Christian and Gandara against GWU reliever Sam Harrell.
Rachel Cumiskey drilled an RBI double for GWU in the top of the third, while Gandara brought home two with a double to the left centerfield gap in the bottom of the frame scoring Natalie Yonan and Matsumoto to put the score at 8-2 after three innings.
Giles recorded nine straight outs on strikeouts from the end of the first until the beginning of the fourth before giving way to Elkins in the top of the fifth inning. The Runnin' Bulldogs tagged her for two runs in the top of the sixth with Jill Blank and Taylar Pridgen both driving in runs.
In her first at-bat of the season in the bottom of the sixth, Elkins worked a 2-0 count before launching a solo home run down the left field line to extend the CSU lead back to 9-4. Two batters later, Evans also connected on her first at-bat, roping a 3-1 offering into the left centerfield gap for a standup double bringing the CSU dugout to life, but that was all the Bucs were able to get in the frame.
Back-to-back solo home runs by Cumiskey and Scarlett Harris brought Gardner-Webb back within three at 9-6 in the top of the seventh before Elkins retired the final two batters to close out the CSU win.
Game Two: Gardner-Webb 6, Charleston Southern 0
Cheyenne Gandara (13-7) struck out eight in the final game of the series, but the Runnin' Bulldogs pushed runs across in five of the seven innings in salvaging the split in the Saturday doubleheader in support of a strong pitching effort from Summer Darnell (7-6).
Gandara struck out 17 batters over 11.1 innings, but was unable to overcome home runs by Harris and Gomes as the Bucs fell for the first time in Big South play on the season.
Stephanie Baro had two of the Bucs four hits in the contest with the freshman third baseman tagging a two-out double in the bottom of the first and a single up the middle in the top of the seventh in the losing effort.
Christian and Stephanie Bergmann also singled for the Bucs.