CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern stretched its winning streak to five on Saturday afternoon as the Buccaneers topped both George Mason and Hartford on the second day of the Willie Jewell's Invitational. The Bucs defeated the Patriots for the second time this weekend in the opener, 7-1, and then held off a late Hartford rally in the evening, 6-5.
CSU (10-3) combined to hit six home runs over the two games to raise their total to eight for the weekend as the Bucs improved to 4-0 over the field at the Willie Jewell's Invitational. Jade Gandara homered twice to extend her team-leading total to six on the season, while Caitlyn Emberson added her first home run of the year in the second game of the day against Hartford.
Charleston Southern 7, George Mason 1
Sarah Brown and Nina Del Rio connected on back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to spark a seven-run outburst as the Buccaneers took their second win over the Patriots on the weekend.
Trailing 1-0 following Jess Curbeira's solo home run in the top of the third, Brown and Del Rio connected on solo home runs three pitches apart to give CSU the 2-1 advantage. Brown's shot cleared the centerfield fence, while Del Rio's blast sailed over the left field fence to put CSU ahead one run after four innings.
CSU tacked on three more in the bottom of the sixth as Bakenhus' infield base hit scored Meghan Gagliano. Emberson reached on a throwing error and the ball rolled away from the Mason first baseman allowing Bakenhus and Destini Ewing to score on the play to provide the final margin.
Pilgrim went the final 3.2 innings in relief to earn her third win of the season. She allowed three hits and surrendered a walk, while striking out two.
Charleston Southern 6, Hartford 5
Charleston Southern overcame a late five-run Hartford rally in the top of the sixth inning as Jade Gandara's sacrifice fly scored Madison Koger in the bottom of the inning to provide the go-ahead run as the Bucs remained undefeated on the weekend.
The Buccaneers scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning to take the early lead off Hawks' starter Melissa Pereira. Emberson led off the contest with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Gandara drew a walk, the Bucs executed a double steal with Emberson taking home on the play for the first run. Mallory Kasinger followed with a two-run shot to left field to give CSU the early lead.
The teams were scoreless until the fifth. Senior right-hander Nicole Ayala hurled three scoreless frames and Emily Visnic added a shutout inning prior to the Bucs connecting on back-to-back home runs for the second time of the day. Emberson and Gandara went back-to-back off Pereira to put CSU ahead 5-0.
The Hawks battled back with five runs in the top of the sixth with Jennifer Johnson providing the big hit of the frame with a double down the left field line. Elizabeth Newkirk capped the rally with an RBI single before Heinrich closed out the final two outs of the frame.
Gandara put the Bucs back in the lead in the bottom of the frame. Madison Koger and Meghan Gagliano led off the inning with back-to-back bunt singles. Emberson drew a walk to load the bases before Gandara lofted a fly ball into right field to put the Bucs ahead 6-5.
Sarah Brown made a pair of nice plays on hard-hit grounders in the bottom of the frame as Heinrich pitched around a two-out single to close out the win.
News & Notes
- Saturday marked the second and third time CSU has connected on back-to-back home runs in the 2018 season as Sarah Brown/Nina Del Rio and Caitlyn Emberson/Jade Gandara joined Madison Koger/Taylor Gleason who achieved the mark on February 16 against Valparaiso.
- Charleston Southern is one of three conference teams to post double-digit wins in 2018 over the first three weekends as the Bucs (10-3), Liberty (10-3), and Gardner-Webb (10-7) have all achieved the mark.
- Jade Gandara surpassed Megan Lombard to take over sole possession of third place all-time in the CSU career home run records as the junior outfielder now has 29 in her career.
- CSU's five-game winning streak equals the Bucs' longest winning streak of last season set on March 21-26 against South Carolina State, Coastal Carolina, and Gardner-Webb.
Charleston Southern closes out the Willie Jewell's Invitational on Sunday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field. First pitch in the opener against Hartford is set for 1 p.m. The Bucs will close out the weekend against St. Bonaventure with first pitch set for 3 p.m.