CHARLESTON, S.C. - Natalie Yonan connected on the walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th inning to propel Charleston Southern to the 3-2 win over Winthrop in the rubber match at the CSU Softball Field this weekend as the Buccaneers topped the Eagles for the second time of the weekend in taking the season series.
With the international tiebreaker in effect, Georgi DeLio started off at second base to open the bottom of the 12th. Brook Richardson dropped down a bunt single, beating the throw to first, to put runners on the corners with none out. Yonan followed with a line drive base hit up the middle on the first pitch she saw from Winthrop reliever Dallas King (3-9) in setting off the celebration on the field.
"Sometimes you just need to find a way to get the win," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "It's not the way we drew it up, but we found a way to go out there and win a one run game. We didn't do it the way we expected, but we did enough today to get the job done."
The walk-off single was the Bucs' sixth walk-off hit of the season and Yonan's first in the 2015 campaign as CSU improves to 26-16 on the year, 8-4 in Big South Conference play with the win.
"From the fourth inning on, we kept telling the team to keep fighting and competing and finding ways to get runners on," said Winkler. "The wind was blowing in today and no one had the pop to get one out of here but Marci (Christian), so we needed to find a way to get the job done. Natalie (Yonan) is tailor-made for that situation. She's a contact hitter that can put balls in play and with her coming up, I thought we were in a good position."
Yonan's late-game heroics at the plate would not have been possible without Christian's game-tying solo home run into the wind in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game up at 2-2 off of Winthrop reliever Sara Allen. The blast, her league-leading 18th of the season, was also the 37th home run of her career as the redshirt senior surpassed former CSU great Jana Matthews' (2010-13) career mark of 36 home runs, putting Christian atop the CSU record book.
"Marci, I can't say enough about what she's done here," Winkler commented. "She's been through every injury possible from head-to-toe and she's come out swinging throughout it. It would be fun to see what a 100% healthy Marci Christian could do, because you wouldn't be able to pitch to her. She's managed to keep it together and continues to swing it. Right now, she's as hot at the plate as I've ever seen her."
Jennifer Giles (10-8) was the difference inside the circle for the Bucs after entering the game in the top of the third inning. The senior right-hander went the final 10 innings, allowing five hits and two unearned runs, while striking out nine in the contest. She retired 10 batters in a row at one point and only allowed one hit past the fifth inning, a single by Maddie Antone in the top of the eighth, in picking up her 10th win of the season.
"Jen's performance today was outstanding, you really couldn't ask for anything more," said Winkler. "We got on the pitchers yesterday about the way we threw and how we weren't doing what we expected and what Jen did today when she got two strikes was she put hitters away. We've been hurt this year on two strike hits, so we addressed that. The pitching and defense was outstanding today. Going into the tiebreaker, you're going to have runners in scoring position every inning, but Jen was unbelievable and we found ways to strand them."
The Buccaneers scored first in the bottom of the second inning as starting pitcher Hayley Elkins reached base with two outs after getting hit by a pitch. Elkins never stopped running on DeLio's single to centerfield and the play at the plate saw the ball bounce away from WU catcher Paige Haley's glove as the Bucs took the 1-0 lead.
Elkins pitched two scoreless innings to start the contest for the Bucs before turning the ball over to Giles in the third and the Eagles took advantage of a CSU throwing error in plating two runs in the frame.
Zharnay Glover led off the inning with a double on a chopper up the middle, but looked to be stranded in scoring position as Giles retired the next two. Antone was hit by a pitch to put two on with two out. Glover attempted to steal third during Kelsey Ritter's at-bat with the throw sailing into left field allowing her to come around and score the first run of the game. Ritter followed with an RBI double scoring Antone to give the Eagles to 2-1 advantage.
Allen entered the game inside the circle for the Eagles replacing starter Sutton Watson in the bottom of the third and kept the Bucs scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when Christian connected on a towering shot to centerfield for her 18th home run of the season to tie the game up at 2-2.
Giles and Allen swapped zeroes in the seventh inning sending the game into extra innings.
A great throw by DeLio in the top of the eighth caught Shayna Covington attempting to steal to end the frame, while a CSU running miscue in the bottom of the frame saw Christian doubled off of second on Stephanie Baro's popup to send the teams into the ninth.
The 10th inning started the international tiebreaker, but the Bucs defense held strong with Giles making a trio of fielding plays inside the circle to keep the tie intact.
After Giles retired the side in order in the top of the 12th, the Bucs broke through against King with back-to-back singles by Richardson and Yonan to take the victory.
Charleston Southern remains at home this week as the Buccaneers host local rival College of Charleston on Wednesday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field. First pitch between the Bucs and the Cougars is set for 4 p.m.