ROCK HILL, S.C. - No. 7 Charleston Southern fell to No. 2 Coastal Carolina in a slugfest on the first day of the 2016 Big South Softball Championships presented by Musco Sports Lighting, 14-10.
Charleston Southern falls into the elimination bracket and will face the loser of tonight's contest between No. 3 Liberty and No. 6 Presbyterian tomorrow morning at the Terry Softball Complex. First pitch is projected for 11:30 a.m.
Jade Gandara (twice), Caitlyn Emberson, Brittany McPherson and Stevi Johnson all homered for the Buccaneers in the contest. Coastal Carolina battled back with a pair of home runs by Mackenzie Conrad and a two-run shot by Timi Tooley as the teams combined for eight home runs as both pitching staffs' struggled to keep the ball inside the park.
For the second time in the 2016 season the Bucs combined to hit five home runs. CSU also reached the mark against Coastal Carolina at the CCU Softball Field on April 13, in CSU's 11-10 loss to the Chants.
Gandara paced the Bucs offense on the evening, going 3-for-4 with a pair of two-run home runs in the contest in the loss. Johnson added three RBI on her three-run shot in the top of the fifth inning.
Hayley Elkins suffered the loss in the circle for the Bucs after going 4.2 innings in the game. Nicole Ayala closed out the final 1.1 innings in relief, allowing just one hit over the final five CCU batters she faced.
Mackenzie Conrad picked up the win for Coastal Carolina, going the final 2.1 innings in relief. Conrad also paced the CCU offense at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs, a double and five RBI.
Gandara put the Bucs on the board in the top of the first inning as the freshman outfielder connected on a two-run home run to straightaway centerfield. The drive scored Stephanie Bergmann to stake CSU to the early 2-0 lead.
Coastal answered in the bottom of the second with a pair of runs highlighted by Mackenzie Conrad's leadoff solo home run to left field. Alexis Alvino added the Chants' second run with a sacrifice fly scoring Kelsey Dominik to tie the game up 2-2.
Gandara drilled her second home run of the contest with two outs in the top of the third, again scoring Bergmann on the drive to give CSU the 4-2 lead. The drive cleared the centerfield fence to the right of the camera stand beyond the fence for her first multi-home run game of her CSU career.
The Chants rallied back in the bottom half of the frame with CCU sending 11 batters to the plate with six runs scoring in taking the 8-4 lead. Timi Tooley had an RBI single in the frame, while Bri Chiusano brought in two on an RBI double down the left field line to give Coastal their first lead of the game.
CSU again utilized the long ball to get on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth as Caitlyn Emberson and Brittany McPherson connected on back-to-back home runs to left field to lead off the frame. It was the second time the duo had gone back-to-back this season with the previous time also coming against Coastal Carolina on April 26.
After the Bucs escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth, Stevi Johnson put CSU back in the lead with a three-run home run in the fifth. The junior infielder connected on a one-out offering, driving the ball over the left field fence and bringing in Matsumoto and Bergmann give the Bucs the 9-8 lead.
Conrad and Tooley answered for the Chants in the bottom half of the inning. After Coastal Carolina loaded the bases on a Andrea Buccilli walk and a pair of Chiusano and Forbes' bunt singles, Conrad drilled the offering from Elkins over the left field fence for a grand slam giving Coastal the 12-9 lead. Tooley followed two batters later with a two-run shot off the camera stand scoring Annie Robinson and extending the CCU lead to 14-9.
The Buccaneers loaded the bases in the top of the seventh inning as CSU rallied back in their final at-bats. Bergmann and Gandara connected on back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, while Emberson was hit by a pitch to put three on base, but CSU was only able to bring one run home on McPherson's fielder's choice as the Bucs fell to the Chants.