CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern's bats exploded for 17 hits on Monday afternoon as the Buccaneers rallied past Radford in the final game of the Big South series against the Highlanders, 8-5.
Jade Gandara, Amanda Matsumoto and Stevi Johnson all had three hits apiece for the Bucs, while Lexie Vanada, Brittany McPherson and Caitlyn Emberson all had multi-hit games as CSU scored six runs over the final three innings to take the final game of the series from Radford.
"We had a completely different mindset coming into today's game offensively," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "We talked pregame about how aggressive we needed to be and this is the best offensive output we've had probably in quite a while. We knew the wind was going to be blowing in today and we were going to have to swing it with a purpose. That's exactly what we did today."
The win marked another milestone in Winkler's career with the Buccaneers as the head coach recorded his 200th career win in his eighth season at CSU.
"When you get a milestone like this with 200 wins, it gives you an opportunity to look back at some things we've done over the past couple of years," commented Winkler. "With the 30 wins seasons, winning a championship, playing in a couple of championship games, we've definitely gotten the program to where we can compete on a daily basis."
Lexie Vanada came through with another clutch hit for the Bucs in the bottom of the sixth as the junior utility player connected on the go-ahead two-run single giving CSU the 7-5 lead. Vanada finished 2-for-4 from the plate and is hitting .524 over the past nine games.
"Lexie's one of our most aggressive hitters," Winkler said. "We talked our offensive approach before the game and we've said Jade Gandara and Lexie lead our team in swing and misses this season. You would think that was a bad statistic, but they lead by example by being extremely aggressive at the plate. When they run into the ball, they run into it with a purpose. She's been aggressive and been swinging the bat well and we just hope she continues it on the rest of the season."
The Bucs utilized a standout performance in the circle by reliever Arizona Pilgrim (5-3) as the freshman shut down the Highlanders offense over the final four innings. Pilgrim scattered three hits while striking out four to limit the Radford threat.
"Arizona did a great job using Radford's aggressiveness against them," Winkler said. "That's what we needed her to do this afternoon. She needed to hit her spots and she did a great job of limiting her mistakes in holding Radford and giving us a chance."
The Buccaneers return to the road for a Wednesday night matchup against South Carolina on the SEC Network+. First pitch between CSU and the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C. is set for 6 p.m.
CSU opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning as Matsumoto scored on Stephanie Bergmann's RBI single to left field.
Radford responded with three runs in the top of the second with Hannah Medlam tripling in Kayla Bishton with one out in the frame. Nia Chiles added an RBI single to left, while Becky Mantel drove in Chiles with a single back up the middle to give the Highlanders the 3-1 lead.
McPherson connected on her third home run of the season with one out in the bottom of the second. The CSU junior right fielder drove the ball into the wind and over the left field fence to narrow the RU lead down to 3-2.
Chiles drove in two with a bases-loaded single down the third base line scoring Kayla Bishton and Casey Burns to extend the Radford lead before Hayley Elkins shut down the Highlanders' offense with a strikeout to end the inning.
Gandara started the CSU comeback in the bottom of the fourth inning with the freshman drilling a line drive double off the centerfield wall, scoring Matsumoto to put the game at 5-3 Radford.
Ashtin Kullnat scored on Emberson's single through the left side of the infield in the bottom of the fifth to make it a one-run ball game before CSU broke the contest open in the sixth.
Johnson connected on the RBI single scoring Matsumoto with one out to tie the game up at 5-5. Vanada followed with a two-run single driving in Johnson and Gandara to give the Bucs the 7-5 lead. Stephanie Baro added a run-scoring single down the right field line to give the Bucs the 8-5 lead.
Pilgrim retired Radford in order in the top of the seventh, retiring RU's Whitney Davis on strikes to end the ballgame.