CHARLESTON, S.C. – Jade Gandara recorded a career-high three home runs in the Buccaneers' finale with Liberty, but the Flames (16-12, 3-0) swept the series in the weekend conference-opener for both teams.
CSU (11-21, 0-3) hit five home runs in game two with Jade Gandara leading the way with a trio of solo shots in the contest. Jade joins sister Cheyenne Gandara as the only two players in CSU softball history to homer three times in a single game. Cheyenne achieved the mark at Radford on March 29, 2015.
The Buccaneers turn their attention to next week as they travel to South Carolina State for a doubleheader on Tuesday. First pitch between the Bucs and the Lady Bulldogs is set for 1:00 p.m.
Game One: Liberty 5, Charleston Southern 3
Charleston Southern scored early, but fell short of a late comeback as the Bucs fell to Liberty, 5-3, in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at CSU Softball field.
The Bucs were first to get on the board after a walk put leadoff batter Amanda Matsumoto on base in the first frame. Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the fleet-footed senior and Matsumoto stole third on a high pitch. A wild pitch against the next batter got her across to give CSU the 1-0 lead after one inning.
The Flames tied up the game in the fourth after Sarah Robertson doubled to deep right field to bring in a run. CSU's defense came up big as Johnson charged a grounder and made the play at the plate to hold the Flames to one run and keep the score tied through three and a half innings.
Reliever Julia DeMartino (4-4) set the side down in order and Liberty's offense added two more runs in the top of the seventh. After a trio of hits from the Flames, Brittany McPherson snagged a line drive to first and caught the runner off the bag for a double play. Clark fielded a bunt from the next batter and finished the play at first to send the Bucs back to the plate for their last at bat with Liberty leading, 5-1.
Georgi DeLio singled to second base and Matsumoto walked to put runners at first and second with one out. Johnson connected for a triple to deep right field, scoring two runs to put the Bucs within two of a comeback.
Jade Gandara came to the plate with two outs and sent a ball to deep left field, but a strong inward wind kept it just short of clearing the fence as the Bucs dropped to Flames, 5-3, for their second conference loss.
Game Two: Liberty 12, Charleston Southern 8
Jade Gandara hit a game-high three home runs, while sister Cheyenne Gandara and sophomore Caitlyn Emberson rounded out CSU's five home runs in the Bucs 12-8 loss in Saturday's series closer with Liberty.
The Flames got on the board in the top of the second with a solo home run from Alexia Taylor and went on to add another following a CSU throwing error for the 2-0 lead. The Flames put two more on the board in the top of the third with hits from Taylor, Jasmeen Click, and sisters Amber and Autumn Bishop to double the Flames lead to 4-0.
An error-filled fourth inning allowed Liberty to score five runs off of three hits to take the 9-4 lead. An aggressive Liberty offense got two more runs across in the top of the fifth.
Taylor recorded her third hit of the game in the sixth frame with a double down the left field line to score a run and give Liberty the 12-5 lead.
The Buccaneers attempted to rally back in the bottom of the inning as Emberson connected on a two-run homer over left field. With two outs, Jade Gandara sent the first pitch she saw over the centerfield fence for her third home run of the game and her team-leading tenth this season. Kenzie Friesen (5-1) set the side down in order to seal Liberty's 12-8 win over the Buccaneers.