BUIES CREEK, N.C. - No. 6 Presbyterian topped No. 5 Charleston Southern in Saturday's first Big South Softball Championships semifinal game as the Buccaneers fell to the Blue Hose at Amanda Littlejohn Stadium, 5-1.
The Buccaneers' season comes to a close with a 31-28 overall record, the fifth season in program history that CSU reached the 30 win mark. Presbyterian advances to face the winner of No. 1 Longwood/No. 2 Coastal Carolina in Sunday afternoon's Big South Championship Game.
Jennifer Giles (15-17) went the distance for the fourth time in the tournament for the Buccaneers, going seven innings in allowing nine hits and five runs, while striking out seven in her final performance with the Buccaneers. Giles, a senior from Jupiter, Fla., leaves the program as the Bucs all-time strikeouts and appearances leader and finished the weekend with a 2.92 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
"Our team showed a lot of fight throughout the tournament and it all starts with those two seniors," head coach Shane Winkler said. "Jen has pitched a lot of big games for us and this week sums up exactl what she's meant to our program. She's a warrior and a fighter. Every team she faced has seen her so many times throughout her career and for her to throw the best ball of the season for the tournament; she gave us a chance."
Fellow senior Marci Christian singled in her final collegiate at-bat to keep the CSU rally alive in the bottom of the seventh against the Blue Hose. The Bucs' all-time home runs leader, Christian finished her final collegiate tournament with a .300 batting average with a team-high four RBI and three runs scored on the weekend.
"Marci, everything she's been through with her injury, not many people can bounce back and put up the type of season that is worthy of national recognition," said Winkler. "That's what she's done. Those two seniors are what the CSU softball program is all about."
Sophomore Stephanie Bergmann gave the Bucs a chance to fight their way back into the game in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run. CSU also fought back to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh as Natalie Yonan and Stevi Johnson both drew walks, before PC was able to close out the contest.
"The future is bright, it's extremely bright for the program," commented Winkler. "I would've loved to have seen what this group could have done if they are healthy with Cheyenne (Gandara) and Jen going in the circle and with (Stephanie) Baro in the cleanup spot, but it wasn't in the cards for us this year. It shows with this group, even though we lose two seniors who have meant so much to this program, with what we're bringing in and bringing back, we'll be back at the top of the Big South for years to come. You haven't heard the last of this program by far."
Several long-standing CSU single season records fell this season as Christian (24) and Gandara (16) both broke the CSU single season home run record, while Amanda Matsumoto (77) broke the CSU single season hits record during the season. Christian (50) and Matsumoto (50) both passed the CSU single season runs record during the season as well.
The Bucs also saw several career marks shattered throughout the year with Christian breaking the home runs (43), slugging percentage and on-base percentage career marks. Giles, inside the circle, broke the CSU strikeouts (439) and appearances (154) record.
Presbyterian jumped out in the top of the second inning as Kersten Legacki connected on a leadoff solo home run to right field to put the Blue Hose ahead 1-0.
The Blue Hose added three more runs in the top of the fourth, again utilizing the long ball. Hope Rogers connected on a three-run shot with one out in the frame, scoring Shelby Petik and Legacki to stake the Blue Hose to the 4-0 lead.
Kensley Loudermelk (15-9) pitched around the Bucs allowing just Matsumoto's bunt single in the bottom of the third as the only blemish until the sixth inning.
With one out in the sixth, Bergmann brought the Bucs back into the game with a solo home run over the fence in left centerfield to put CSU on the scoreboard.
PC added to their lead in the seventh on a Rogers RBI single, but the Bucs battled back in the seventh, loading the bases against Loudermelk with two outs. However, CSU's final batter flew out to left to end the game.