SB Preview: Buccaneers face No. 5 Winthrop in Big South Championship opener

SB Preview: Buccaneers face No. 5 Winthrop in Big South Championship opener

CHARLESTON, S.C. - No. 4 seed Charleston Southern will travel to Farmville, Virginia this week to open the 2017 Big South Softball Championship against No. 5 Winthrop at Lancer Field on the campus of Longwood University on Wednesday, May 10, with first pitch set for noon on the Big South Network. Fans can follow the Big South Championship action via live stats on and in-game updates on Twitter: @CSUGameday.

CSU Game Notes - Big South Championship

The No. 4 seed is Charleston Southern Softball's highest seed placement since the Bucs earned a three seed in 2012. The Bucs will look to re-establish their five year streak of winning multiple games in the Big South postseason after dropping in two games last year as a No. 7 seed.  Three years ago, CSU became the first No. 7 seed in Championship history to win the championship game and the Big South's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

CSU will rely on a number of players to continue their postseason success this year including sophomore slugger Jade Gandara and seniors Amanda Matsumoto, Stevi Johnson, Stephanie Bergmann, Georgi DeLio, Brittany McPherson and Lexie Vanada, who were all part of CSU's 2014 Big South Championship team.

Under Head Coach Shane Winkler, the Buccaneers have gone 14-13 at the Big South Championship since 2009. In 2014, CSU's now seniors Amanda Matsumoto, Stevi Johnson,Stephanie Bergmann, Georgi DeLio, Brittany McPherson and Lexie Vanada helped lead the Buccaneers to their second Big South Championship title and the program's first NCAA Tournament berth, becoming the lowest seed to make the Big South Conference Championship Game at the No. 7 slot.

Scouting Winthrop - Series sorrows
Winthrop (24-29, 9-12) enters Wednesday's Big South Championship Game One after dropping five consecutive conference series. The Eagles were most recently topped at No. 6 Radford, falling to the Highlanders, 1-2 and 1-6, last Sunday. Winthrop also fell twice to No. 1 Liberty two weeks ago after coming off its series loss with the Buccaneers, where CSU recorded 4-0 and 6-4 victories on Senior Day (April 15). Winthrop postponed its April 5 game with Gardner-Webb until April 12 and fell to the Runnin' Bulldogs, 2-3, to give GWU the series sweep. The Eagles also struggled with No. 2 seed Campbell as the Fighting Camels swept the series with a 7-1 win on April 7, along with 10-6 and 9-2 wins on April 8. Winthrop has not won a conference series since sweeping Longwood with a 1-0 victory on March 31 that was followed by 5-4 and 3-2 wins on April 1.

Setting the tone
Redshirt junior Maddie Antone leads the Eagles at the plate with a .397 batting average for a third-best in the Big South Conference. The Vandergrift, Pennsylvania native is also ranked third in the conference with a .459 on base percentage and has earned a number four spot with a .583 slugging percentage.

Antone sits in the top of several other league leaderboards, including doubles (2nd, 15), total bases (4th, 91), hits (5th, 62) and RBI (8th, 31).

She has recorded at least one hit in all but five of 21 conference games and was held to just two hits in Winthrop's series at Charleston Southern for her lowest total hits this season in a series with a Big South team.

Leaping Leah
Redshirt senior Leah Young leads the Eagles with a perfect 13 stolen bases in 13 attempts for a number seven ranking in the Big South.Young is also tied for fourth in the league with 10 home runs on the season, twice that of the Eagles next best home run hitter, Ashley Westbrooks.She has recorded nine multiple RBI games this season, scored two runs in three straight games and became the sixth player in Winthrop Softball's program history to reach 10 career triples.

Kiley for the K
Sophomore Kiley Majette (13-15) leads Winthrop with 127 strikeouts this season for a third-best in the Big South Conference.

Majette has proven she's a threat you might not see coming, taking 42 batters down looking for a second- best in the league.The Holly Springs, North Carolina native has recorded a 3.70 earned run average through her 39 appearances and has pitched for 11 complete games this season.

Majette pitched for a career-high 12 strikeouts to earn a win over Western Carolina on March 23 in game one of the doubleheader and recorded her first career save on February 19 in Winthrop's 5-1 win over Lipscomb.The sophomore has been named the Big South Pitcher of the Week twice this season, most recently earning the honor on March 20.

Last Time Out - Bucs Swept Eagles with Senior Day Comeback
April 15, 2017
Charleston Southern swept Winthrop on Saturday's Senior Day as the Bucs' big bats led them to a 4-0 win in game one and a 6-4 victory for the series finale at CSU Softball Field.

The Buccaneers' (22-29, 7-8) seniors went out with a bang, combining for four of CSU's six home runs on the day. Senior Stevi Johnson recorded a solo shot in both wins, while seniors Georgi DeLio and Stephanie Bergmann each recorded a home run in game two. Senior leadoff hitter Amanda Matsumoto led CSU at the plate with four hits for a team-high .667 batting average on the day.

Cheyenne Gandara (8-11) led the Bucs in the circle with nine strikeouts and zero earned runs through a combined nine innings pitched. The redshirt junior earned her first save of the season in game two, with two strikeouts while holding Winthrop (21-25, 7-8) scoreless through the final two frames.

Game One: Winthrop 6, Charleston Southern 3

Four costly Charleston Southern errors allowed Winthrop to rally at the plate for a 6-3 conference victory over the Bucs on Friday afternoon at CSU Softball Field.

Leah Young led the Eagles (21-23, 7-6) at the plate with two runs scored and a home run to centerfield to score two of Winthrop's six unearned runs. Kiley Majette (12-12) paced the Eagles in the circle with two strikeouts and one earned run through four innings.

Jade Gandara was responsible for bringing in two of the Buccaneers' (20-29, 5-8) three runs, with the sophomore slugger connecting for two hits while scoring a run. Lexie Vanada went 2-for-4 on the day and recorded the first RBI of the contest scoring Jade Gandara in the bottom of the third inning.

Holly Clark (6-8) retired the Eagles first batter in the top of the fourth, but a fielding error allowed the next batter to reach base. With two outs, Ansley Gilreath connected for a double to right field to tie the game up at 1-1. Clark went on to strike out the next batter, but a dropped third strike put runners on the corners. A throwing error on a stolen base attempt allowed Winthrop to pull ahead, 2-1, and a groundout ended the top of the inning.

Stephanie Bergmann led the Bucs off with a rip up the middle in the bottom of the fourth frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Jade Gandara connected for a slow rolling ball towards first and beat the tag by diving into the bag to score Bergmann and tie the game at 2-2.

Two more CSU errors in the fifth inning allowed Winthrop to score four runs off of two hits to take the 6-2 lead that the Eagles would not relinquish.

The Bucs attempted a comeback in the bottom of the sixth sparked by a single to centerfield from Amanda Matsumoto. Stevi Johnson followed with a double that was just short of clearing the left field fence and Jade Gandara drove in the Bucs' third run with a sacrifice fly to center field. Majette recorded her second strikeout of the game to end CSU's rally and went on to set the side down in order in the final frame.

Clark set the side down in order in the sixth frame and allowed just one hit in the seventh. She finished the day with one strikeout and didn't allow an earned run through five innings pitched.

Game Two: Charleston Southern 4, Winthrop 0

Senior Stevi Johnson and sophomore Jade Gandara paced Charleston Southern at the plate with a home run and a pair of RBI apiece to help lead the Buccaneers to a 4-0 game one victory over Winthrop on Saturday afternoon's Senior Day at CSU Softball Field.

Cheyenne Gandara (8-11) led the Bucs in the circle striking out seven in the complete game effort.

CSU got on the board early as Johnson connected for a solo home run to left center for the 1-0 lead after one frame. Winthrop threatened to score in the second inning after loading the bases with two outs. The Bucs' defense came up big as senior first baseman Brittany McPherson hustled to snag a popup in foul territory, leaving three Eagles stranded on base.

With two outs in the third frame, Johnson reached base on a walk. Jade Gandara followed with a deep rip over the center field fence for the Big South home run leader's 14th of the season and the 3-0 CSU lead.

Senior Amanda Matsumoto rallied on two outs in the fifth frame and connected for a hit to left field and advanced to second on a muffed pick off attempt. Johnson moved the run across with a single through the right side for her second RBI of the game and CSU's fourth run.

Cheyenne Gandara opened the sixth frame with back-to-back strikeouts and set the side down in order through the final two innings to seal the 4-0 Buccaneer win.

Game Three: Charleston Southern 6, Winthrop 4

Seniors Stevi Johnson, Stephanie Bergmann and Georgi DeLio combined for a trio of home runs to help push Charleston Southern to a 6-4 series finale victory over Winthrop on Saturday in the seniors' last collegiate game at CSU Softball Field. Jade Gandara also contributed a homer for her second on the day and 15th of the season.

Arizona Pilgrim opened the game for the Buccaneers and recorded two strikeouts through three innings. Holly Clark (7-8) went to the circle in the fourth frame and also added a pair of strikeouts and just one hit for the freshman's seventh win. Cheyenne Gandara wrapped up the conference victory with two strikeouts through the final two frames, marking the redshirt junior's first save of the season.

Kiley Majette (12-13) paced Winthrop on the rubber with nine strikeouts and six hits in the Eagles' road loss.

Paige Haley got Winthrop on the board in the first inning after reaching base with a single to left field. A pair of groundouts moved her to third and a wild pitch allowed her to score to give the Eagles the 1-0 advantage after half an inning.

Senior Amanda Matsumoto got things going for the Bucs in the bottom of the frame, leading off with a bunt for the base hit. Jade Gandara connected for another long ball, sending her second out with a deep rip over center field for the 2-1 CSU lead. A walk allowed Caitlyn Emberson to get on and Bergmann followed by clearing the bases with a home run to right field to put the Bucs up 4-1 after one inning.

Pilgrim set the side down in order in the second frame, but Winthrop sparked a rally in the third with a leadoff single from Haley. Maddie Antone and Ashley Westbrooks posted back-to-back doubles and Tara Loken brought in the Eagles' third run with a hit to left field to tie the game up at 4-4.

Majette struck out two CSU batters and side the side down in order in the bottom of the third inning. With two away in the fourth frame, DeLio got a hold of one and ripped a solo shot over left center for the go-ahead run and her fourth home run of the season.

CSU's seniors stayed hot in the next inning with Johnson connecting on another solo home run, marking her second on the day and fifth this season.

Trailing the Bucs 6-4 through five innings, Majette set the CSU side down in order with a trio of strikeouts in the sixth frame. Cheyenne Gandara answered back for the Bucs in the circle, holding the Eagles to three hits and pitching for two strikouts through the final two innings. Winthrop threatened to score during their final at bat with two outs, runners on second and third and the go-ahead run at the plate. Gandara thwarted the comeback effort and retired the Eagles' last batter swinging to seal the 6-4 victory and series win for the Bucs on Senior Day.

Big South Pitcher of the Week - Arizona Pilgrim (May 8, 2017)...
Charleston Southern sophomore Arizona Pilgrim (Taft, Calif.) was selected as the Big South Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week for games played May 1-7 as announced by the conference office on Monday afternoon.  Pilgrim (9-10) led the Buccaneers in the circle, earning a win in all three of CSU's games at Campbell over the weekend. The sophomore recorded 10 strikeouts and finished the series with a 0.54 earned run average while holding hitters to a .119 opposing batting average through 13 innings pitched. On Saturday, Pilgrim recorded six strikeouts in a complete game effort in CSU's 4-1 victory and went on to close out CSU's 2-1 extra innings' win by holding the Camels hitless through the seventh and eighth frames.This honor was Pilgrim's second career Big South Conference Pitcher of the Week, receiving her first honor last year on February 15 as a freshman.

Homerun hitters
Charleston Southern leads the Big South with 63 home runs this season, 26 more than the next highest team in the league (Campbell-37) and the fourth most home runs of any team in the country. The Bucs follow James Madison's 66 and Louisiana's 80, while Arizona leads the NCAA with 88. CSU is also ranked 14th in the nation with 1.07 home runs per game.  Five Buccaneers have landed on the Big South's home run leaderboard. Sophomore Jade Gandara paces CSU with 16 on the year for the number two spot in the league. Fellow sophomore, Caitlyn Emberson, is ranked third with 11, while freshman Mallory Kasinger and redshirt-junior Cheyenne Gandara share the number seven spot with seven homers. Senior Stevi Johnson rounds out the five CSU sluggers with six bombs to share the number 9 spot with two other players in the Big South.

Jade's accolades
Sophomore Jade Gandara leads CSU's pack of home run hitters with 16 bombs on the season. Ranked second in the Big South (16th in the NCAA), she is one home run away from tying Campbell's Amber Schisler.Gandara leads the conference with 66 hits (41st in the NCAA), 54 RBI (19th in the NCAA), 132 total bases (5th in the NCAA) and boasts a league-best 16 doubles (27th in the NCAA).The sophomore slugger has recorded a hit in 26 of CSU's last 30 games. Her bat has only gone cold in two of the Buccaneers' 21 conference games, going without a hit in CSU's 5-3 loss to No. 1 Liberty on March 18 and one other time on April 22 in CSU's 3-0 loss at No. 3 Longwood. Gandara has had multiple hits in nine conference games this season and connected for a trio of hits on March 18 against No. 1 Liberty, Presbyterian on April 1, and went three-for-four in CSU's back-to-back wins against No. 6 Radford on April 8 and 9 to help CSU to the series sweep.

Mats on the move
Senior Amanda Matsumoto leads the conference with 31 stolen bases overall this season and finished in the top three of several conference-only categories including batting average (.426), hits (29), on-base percentage (.494) and runs scored (19).  The fleet-footed senior shattered two of CSU's program records this season, finishing regular-season play with 97 career steals and 233 career hits.

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