Weekend Preview: Buccaneers hit the road for the Holy City Showdown

Weekend Preview: Buccaneers hit the road for the Holy City Showdown
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern heads back on the road this weekend as the Bucs make the short trip downtown and over the bridge to Patriots Point as CSU takes on the field at the Holy City Showdown. CSU takes on Wright State, Norfolk State, and Eastern Illinois over the three-day weekend with the Bucs slated to play opponents on both Friday and Sunday.
The Bucs look to bounce back from this past weekend's struggles as CSU went 0-5 at the Tennessee Invitational hosted by the Volunteers. CSU dropped twice to host UT, twice to Toledo and fell 4-3 to South Alabama in the first game of the weekend tournament.
CSU will look to recapture their success and continue their hitting prowess in Charleston as the Bucs recorded their ninth consecutive home win on Wednesday afternoon against Savannah State. The win snapped a five-game losing streak after the Bucs had rattled off a Winkler-era best eight-game winning streak.
The Bucs open the weekend with their lone game against Wright State on Friday afternoon. The Raiders lead the all-time series between the two teams, 4-1, but CSU is coming off a win in the last matchup between the teams in 2015. CSU has split in their two games against Norfolk State and has also split in their matchups against Eastern Illinois.
The Bucs will follow up the weekend tournament with a matchup against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field prior to opening Big South Conference play on March 16-17 at Winthrop.
Live stats for all games this weekend can be accessed on the CSU Softball schedule page.
Charleston Southern takes on Wright State in the Buccaneers' Holy City Showdown opener on Friday afternoon as the Bucs will take on the Raiders at Patriots Point. The Raiders started off the season struggling with losses in their first 11 games prior to recording three consecutive wins at the Under Armour Invitational in Clearwater, Fla. Wright State enters the weekend following a loss to Wisconsin this past Sunday.
The Raiders were picked third overall in the Horizon League preseason softball poll after a 2017 season that saw Wright State place fourth overall in the regular season with a 21-31 record, 14-10 in Horizon League play. Nine players return to the roster including two-time Horizon League First Team selection Honnah Susor to help first-year head coach Laura Matthews.
Susor reprises her role leading the Raiders' offense on the season with team-leading .350 batting average with 14 hits in 40 at-bats. Susor paces the lineup with 10 runs and has shone her adeptness at getting on base with eight walks and five hit by pitches. Kaitlyn Skinner is also hitting above .300 on the season with a .323 average and a team-high three doubles, while a familiar face also sits among the WSU leaders. Rebekah Lenos is hitting .250 in the lineup after transferring this winter.
Ashley Sharp is the team-leader in the circle on the year with a 4.86 ERA and a 2-8 record in 13 appearances. She has made a team-high seven starts to go with four complete games and a 27:21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ally Russell is also among the team leaders with a 4.15 ERA and a 1-3 record with six starts on the year.
Wright State leads the all-time series with the Bucs with a 4-1 record against CSU dating back to when the teams first met in the 2000 season. The Bucs did pick up their first win of the series in the last matchup in the 2015 season with a 6-2 victory over the Raiders.
Charleston Southern faces Norfolk State twice at the Holy City Showdown in the late game on Friday and the first game on Sunday afternoon as the Bucs take on the Spartans. Norfolk State opened the season on a hot streak winning eight of their first 11, but since then have lost their last nine of their last 10 contests including splitting against North Carolina A&T on Wednesday afternoon.
Norfolk State was picked fifth in the preseason MEAC softball poll after a 2017 season that saw the Spartans hold a 12-24 overall record and 5-13 mark in conference play. NSU received 80 points in the poll Senior shortstop Jaylene Pryor earned a preseason Second Team All-Conference honor after hitting .293 last season with eight doubles, a home run, and 11 RBI.
Shelby Deschamps has been the team leader at the plate over the first three weeks of the season with a team-high .488 batting average with 17 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. Meaghan Barfield (4 HR, 16 RBI) and Kylee Lopez (5 HR, 21 RBI) have been the mainstays in the heart of the lineup, while Pryor has been solid with a .340 batting average on the year.
Skylar Swain and Hunter Halford have paced the Spartans' efforts in the circle. The duo has combined for 16 appearances and 15 starts on the year with Swain (2.25 ERA) and Halford (3.04 ERA) both posting solid numbers in the circle. Halford has five complete games and a 28:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year.
Charleston Southern last faced Norfolk State in the 2009 season with the Bucs and Spartans swapping wins at the CSU Invitational. The Bucs took the opener against the Spartans, 4-3, and then fell in the ensuing contest, 2-1.
Charleston Southern faces Eastern Illinois in the Bucs' final contest of the Holy City Showdown. The Bucs will also take on the Panthers in a midweek matchup on March 13 at the CSU Softball Field. Eastern Illinois enters the weekend with a 13-6 overall record and an 11-3 mark in neutral matchups. The Panthers have fallen in three of their last four games with losses to UAB, Maryland, and Louisville.
The Panthers were picked fourth overall in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference softball preseason poll after a 2017 season that saw Eastern Illinois boast a 28-21 record and a 10-5 mark in conference play. EIU sophomore outfielder Kayla Bear was named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List in the preseason, one of 50 players from across the country to make the list.
Bear is again one of the Panthers' leaders at the plate this season with a .369 batting average to go with a team-high 24 hits and 10 stolen bases. Haley Mitchell is hitting .357 on the year with a team-high five home runs, seven doubles, and 24 RBI, while Mia Davis is second on the team with four home runs in 14 games played.
Michelle Rogers is the ace in the circle on the season with 12 appearances and nine starts to go with a team-best 7-3 record. Jessica Wireman has been the team's strikeout ace with a 68:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year to go with a 2.39 ERA and a 5-2 record.
The Bucs first faced off against Eastern Illinois in the 2004 season with CSU falling in the contest against the Panthers, 7-2. CSU won their only contest against EIU in the Winkler era with a 5-4 victory in the 2014 season on February 28, 2014.
>Jade Gandara continues to swing a hot bat in the CSU lineup as the junior slugger paces the Bucs in batting average (.420), hits (29), runs (20), home runs (7) and RBI (24). She is also one of the toughest players in the nation to strikeout recording only three in her 69 at-bats.
>Mallory Kasinger leads the Bucs with seven doubles = on the season. Kasinger is second on the team in hits (23) and RBI (23).
>Caitlyn Emberson is also among the team's leaders on the season with 19 runs scored, six doubles, and two home runs. She also sits among the national leaders with 15 walks drawn on the year.
>Five newcomers and eight players overall have hit home runs in the 2018 season. Freshmen Nina Del Rio (5) and Sarah Brown (5) have provided pop in the middle of the lineup for Coach Winkler.
>Meghan Gagliano leads a speedy CSU lineup with a team-high 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts on the year. Four different CSU players have recorded multiple steals on the season with Annie Bakenhus (7), Kendall Anderson (8), and Sarah Brown (3) all showing their athleticism on the base paths.
>Holly Clark leads a deep CSU pitching staff with a team-high three shutouts in her nine starts in 2018.
>Three different CSU pitchers have accounted for all of CSU's wins in the 2018 season with Clark (4-3), Alyssa Heinrich (5-1), and Arizona Pilgrim (5-3) all boasting winning records in the circle.
Thanks to a favorable tournament slate that saw CSU host 17 of its first 22 games in the friendly confines of the CSU Softball Field, the Buccaneers enter the weekend with a 14-8 record following Wednesday's win over Savannah State. CSU opened the year with a trio of the wins at the opening Wingate by Wyndham Invitational and then followed with three more wins the ensuing weekend at the Buccaneer Invitational. Thanks to the perfect 6-0 mark at the Willie Jewell's Invitational, the Bucs boasted a Winkler-era best eight-game winning streak heading into the Tennessee Invitational, their first true road test of the season.
The Bucs went 0-5 this past weekend at Knoxville, struggling with a pair of losses against Tennessee and Toledo while falling to South Alabama in their tournament opener. The Bucs bounced back with an 8-0 win over Savannah State on Wednesday. The Bucs' Jade Gandara captured a pair of conference Player of the Week nods over the first three weeks of the season, while sophomore ace Holly Clark is the reigning Big South Pitcher of the Week thanks to her efforts this past weekend. The Bucs combined to hit 29 home runs over the first 21 games of the year, sitting tied for eighth overall in the NCAA in home runs per game over the first four weekends.
Similar to most schools around the country, Charleston Southern takes on a challenging preseason slate as the Buccaneers will compete in five separate tournaments prior to opening Big South Conference play on March 16. Along with CSU's three home tournaments, the Bucs will also compete at the Tennessee Invitational hosted by Tennessee and the Holy City Showdown hosted by College of Charleston. Tennessee is the highest-ranked opponent on the schedule heading into the season as the Volunteers were selected 11/12 overall in the two major polls. The Volunteers are coming off another trip to the NCAA Super Regional before falling to Texas A&M.
Thanks to the early season power surge this season that features 29 home runs and 58 extra base hits, Charleston Southern entered the week entrenched in the NCAA's top 10 in home runs per game (1.38, 8th) on the season. The Bucs were 10th in the NCAA in slugging percentage (.528), 23rd in scoring (6.10), and 42nd in stolen bases per game (1.67).
Jade Gandara continues to sit among the NCAA leaders in multiple categories on the season. Gandara is ninth in total bases (56), 11th in home runs (7), 19th in RBI (24), 30th in home runs per game (0.33), and 31st in slugging percentage (.848). Mallory Kasinger has also been among the nation's best in total bases with 46 on the season, sitting 29th overall.
Charleston Southern's offense has been the nation's best in putting up runs in the early portion of the 2018 season as the Buccaneers entered the week pacing the Big South with 6.10 runs per game. CSU has put up less than four runs just five in the 2018 season and has eclipsed eight runs on seven separate occasions, including 15 in CSU's five-inning victory over Towson on February 10, and 12 runs on February 23 against George Mason. The Bucs have run-ruled opponents on five separate occasions this season and currently are the only conference team to be hitting above .300 at .301.
Not only has Charleston Southern been effective offensively in the 2018 season, the Buccaneers have been nearly as effective in keeping opponents off the scoreboard. CSU has posted six shutouts over the first 22 games of the season and has held opponents under four runs in 11 different games on the year. The Bucs entered the week fifth in the conference with a 3.00 ERA on the season paced by Holly Clark's 1.70 mark for the year. Clark and Arizona Pilgrim are also in the top eight in the Big South in opponent batting average.
Jade Gandara earned the recognition for the second time this season after leading Charleston Southern to a perfect 6-0 record this past weekend at the Willie Jewell's Invitational at the CSU Softball Field. Gandara led CSU's offense with eight hits, seven runs scored and six extra base hits, including a trio of home runs. She also added 10 RBI and a stolen base to help extend the Bucs win streak to seven.
Gandara opened the weekend with a double and a pair of RBI in CSU's 9-0 win over St. Bonaventure. She followed with a triple and home run to go with three runs scored and four RBI in a win over George Mason. She added another home run in CSU's 7-1 win over George Mason, then another dinger with two runs scored and a pair of RBI in a win over Hartford.
Week 1 – Jade Gandara, OF
Week 3 – Jade Gandara, OF
Along with Gandara earning Player of the Week honors, sophomore right-hander Holly Clark earned conference Pitcher of the Week recognition this past weekend. Clark recorded her team-leading third shutout of the season in the opener last weekend against St. Bonaventure, and then added a win in the Bucs' final game against Hartford to record a 2-0 weekend record. She made four appearances overall, which included three starts and a shutout.
Clark struck out four in the complete blanking against St. Bonaventure, then went on to record a scoreless relief appearance against George Mason. She followed that up with her third walk-less appearance where she picked up her fourth win of the season in a win against the Hawks.
Week 3 – Holly Clark, RHP
Key to Charleston Southern's success early in the season has been the power surge from the bats of freshmen Nina Del Rio, Sarah Brown, Taylor Gleason, and Madison Koger. The CSU quartet has combined for 13 home runs over the first 22 games with Del Rio and Brown connecting on five apiece. Lining up primarily in the cleanup and the fifth position, Brown and Del Rio have combined for 10 home runs, four doubles, a triple, and 31 RBI in the heart of the CSU lineup. Gleason added home runs in back-to-back games at the Buccaneer Invitational, while Koger also homered in the Buccaneer Invitational. Along with newcomer Annie Bakenhus (1 home run), CSU has 14 of their 29 home runs accounted for by players not on the 2017 roster.
Back-to-Back (And Repeat)
Following Mallory Kasinger and Sarah Brown's back-to-back home runs on Wednesday afternoon against St. Bonaventure, the Buccaneers have connected on back-to-back home runs in four separate games in the 2018 season. Madison Koger and Taylor Gleason were the first to accomplish the feat on February 16 against Valparaiso. Sarah Brown and Nina Del Rio were the second duo with back-to-back shots on February 24 against George Mason. Caitlyn Emberson and Jade Gandara followed later that day with back-to-back shots against Hartford.
CSU Goes Back-to-Back
February 16 vs. Valparaiso – Madison Koger (solo), Taylor Gleason (solo) – 7th inning
February 24 vs. George Mason – Sarah Brown (solo), Nina Del Rio (solo) – 4th inning
February 24 vs. Hartford – Caitlyn Emberson (solo), Jade Gandara (solo) – 5th inning
February 28 vs. St. Bonaventure – Mallory Kasinger (2-run), Sarah Brown (solo) – 3rd inning
Eight Different Players Gone Deep
Heading into the fifth weekend of the season, the Buccaneers' power bats have been active early in the year with eight different players leaving the ballpark in the 2018 season. Jade Gandara has held the hot bat for CSU early in the season with a team-high six home runs.
Jade Gandara (7) – Feb. 8 vs. North Dakota, Feb. 18 vs. N.C. Central (twice), Feb. 23 vs. George Mason, Feb. 24 vs. George Mason, Feb. 24 vs. Hartford, Mar. 4 vs. Toledo
Mallory Kasinger (6) – Feb. 10 vs. Towson, Feb. 16 vs. Valparaiso, Feb. 24 vs. Hartford, Feb. 25 vs. St. Bonaventure, Feb. 26 vs. St. Bonaventure, Mar. 2 vs. South Alabama
Sarah Brown (5) – Feb. 18 vs. N.C. Central, Feb. 23 vs. George Mason, Feb. 24 vs. George Mason, Feb. 28 vs. St. Bonaventure, Mar. 3 at Tennessee
Nina Del Rio (5) – Feb. 17 vs. Valparaiso, Feb. 24 vs. George Mason, Feb. 25 vs. Hartford, Feb. 25 vs. St. Bonaventure, Mar. 4 vs. Toledo
Caitlyn Emberson (2) – Feb. 24 vs. Hartford, Feb. 28 vs. St. Bonaventure
Taylor Gleason (2) – Feb. 16 vs. Valparaiso, Feb. 16 vs. Eastern Kentucky
Annie Bakenhus (1) – Feb. 25 vs. Hartford
Madison Koger (1) – Feb. 16 vs. Valparaiso
Chasing CSU Records
Jade Gandara continues her ascent in the CSU Career Record books as the junior outfielder moves up the CSU rankings in multiple categories. The Hemet, Calif. native enters the weekend 19th all-time in career hits (135), third in home runs (30), 11th in doubles (29), 14th in runs (78), and fourth in RBI (105). She will attempt to continue to move up in the rankings in her third season with the Bucs.
Stealing in Bunches
Meghan Gagliano has certainly made a name for herself on the basepaths to start the 2018 season as the fleet-footed freshman leads the Big South Conference with 12 stolen bases over the first 22 games of the season. Gagliano has posted multiple stolen bases in two separate games this season and has steals in seven of her last eight heading into the weekend. The freshman leads a resurgent CSU running game that boasts 36 steals in 40 attempts and has four players with at least three steals on the year. Overall, 10 different CSU players have recorded stolen bases in the 2018 season with Annie Bakenhus (7-for-7), Kendall Anderson (8-for-8), and Sarah Brown (3-for-3) all boasting perfect marks on the year.
Big South Leaders
The Bucs' success over the past three weeks has translated into multiple top appearances in the Big South standings. As a team, CSU entered the week pacing the Big South in batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.529), runs (136), home runs (29), RBI (123), wins (14), and shutouts (6). Gandara leads the Big South in batting average (.439) and is tied for the conference lead with 29 hits. Emberson leads the Big South with 14 walks, while Gagliano is the conference leader with 12 steals. Alyssa Heinrich paces the conference with eight games in relief.

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