BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - Brittany McPherson connected on a grand slam and drove in seven RBI to lead Charleston Southern past host Gardner-Webb on Sunday afternoon at the Brinkley Softball Field, 9-4.
McPherson connected on a bases-loaded double in the top of the first inning driving in three runs, then connected on a grand slam in the third to give the CSU (17-20, 5-4) pitching staff all the support they would need as the Buccaneers took the series from the Runnin' Bulldogs (16-17, 2-4).
Hayley Elkins (9-15) went the first four innings in the circle for the Bucs, allowing five hits and four runs (three earned) in picking up the win. Arizona Pilgrim closed out the final three innings in relief in picking up her second save of the season. The freshman allowed one hit while striking out two in the contest.
The Bucs struck first in the top of the first inning with all of the damage coming with two outs in the frame. After GWU starter Devyn Terry retired the first two Bucs in the inning, Johnson and Vanada connected on back-to-back singles to put runners on base. Caitlyn Emberson reached on a fielding error by Terry, before McPherson turned on a pitch driving the ball into the left centerfield gap allowing all three runners to score, giving CSU the 3-0 lead.
GWU took one back in the bottom half of the inning as Amanda Gomes connected on a sacrifice fly driving in Kaylee Wacaster to narrow the margin to 3-1.
The Runnin' Bulldogs tied the game up at 3-3 in the second as Jill Blank singled in Megan Champion and Callie Thornton.
The Bucs responded in the top of the third with the first eight batters reaching base. Johnson and Vanada again sparked the inning with back-to-back singles, while Emberson reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases. McPherson turned on the pitch from GWU reliever Summer Darnell, driving the ball over the left field fence for the grand slam to give the Bucs the 7-3 lead.
Gardner-Webb continued to battle back in the fourth as Rachel Cumiskey singled in Wacaster to cut the Bucs' lead to 7-4.
Pilgrim shut down the GWU comeback attempt over the final three innings with the freshman reliever allowing only a Cumiskey leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh on her way to closing out the game.
The Buccaneers continue Big South Conference play next weekend at the CSU Softball Field as CSU hosts Campbell on April 9-10. First pitch in Saturday's doubleheader is set for 1 p.m., while Sunday's series finale is slated for a 1 p.m. start.