SB Preview: Buccaneers open conference play with weekend series at Winthrop

SB Preview: Buccaneers open conference play with weekend series at Winthrop

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern hits the road to start Big South Conference play as the Buccaneers make the trip to Rock Hill, S.C. and Terry Field this weekend. CSU will face the Eagles in a three-game series starting on Friday evening at 6 p.m. The Bucs and Winthrop close out the series on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader set for 1 p.m.

The Bucs are looking to bounce back from a tough three-game stretch that included the team being shutout for the first time in 2018. CSU took the first two games in the Holy City Showdown against Wright State and Norfolk State on Friday night, but the bats went cold on Sunday with CSU falling in the rematch to NSU to start the final day at Patriots Point.

CSU Softball Game Notes - at Winthrop*

CSU fell twice to Eastern Illinois, once on Sunday evening thanks to a Jessica Wireman pitching gem, and then again on Tuesday afternoon at the CSU Softball Field. The Bucs put together three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to battle their way back into the contest against the Panthers, but CSU was unable to close the gap in falling 5-4.

The Bucs enter the weekend series boasting a 16-11 record this season including an impressive 14-4 mark at home. The road has not been as friendly for CSU this spring with the Bucs posting a 2-7 record away from the CSU Softball Field, including a 0-2 mark in true road games against No. 5/5 Tennessee.

CSU will face a majority Big South schedule the remainder of the season with only seven more non-conference contests on the 2018 agenda. The Bucs' close out non-conference play with road contests against Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, Savannah State, and South Carolina. CSU is home against College of Charleston and has a midweek doubleheader against Furman left on the slate.
Live stats for all games this weekend can be accessed on the CSU Softball schedule page.

FACING WINTHROP
Winthrop also opens conference competition this upcoming weekend as the Eagles host the first of three conference weekends at Terry Field. The Eagles will also host three-game sets against Radford (Mar. 30-31) and Gardner-Webb (Apr. 13-14) this year.

The Eagles open the weekend with a 9-9 overall record on the year following their tournament schedule. Winthrop went 3-1 to open the year at the Red & Black Showcase, 0-4 at the Spartan Classic, 4-1 at their home Winthrop/Adidas Tournament, and a 1-3 record at this past weekend's Holy City Showdown. Noted among their schedule includes a pair of wins over Samford and Evansville.

Winthrop was picked sixth overall in the preseason conference poll as announced by the conference office. The Eagles received 26 votes after finishing the 2017 season with a 27-31 mark and a 9-12 result in Big South play. Winthrop had a 14-12 record at Terry Field in 2017, including a conference sweep over Presbyterian and Longwood.

Morgan Lowers leads the Eagles bats at the plate in the 2018 season. The junior outfielder boasts a .333 batting average with a team-high 19 hits and five doubles on the season. Ansley Gilreath paces the team's power efforts with a team-high five home runs, while Ashley Westbrooks has a pair of home runs and 10 RBI.

Kiley Majette is the pitcher to watch in the 2018 season for the Eagles. The junior left-hander boasts an impressive 1.86 ERA on the year over 10 appearances and eight starts. She has a 5-4 record in 60.1 innings pitched to go with a 57:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Sabrina Shroades (2-2, 1.91 ERA) and Madyson Watson (2-3, 5.32 ERA) are also expected to see time in the circle this season.

The Bucs have lined up against the Eagles nearly every year dating back to 1987 according to CSU records with the two teams swapping wins in their first matchup. The Bucs took the season series last year, 2-1 with both wins coming in the series finale doubleheader. CSU also topped the Eagles on the first day of the Big South Championships, but Winthrop got their revenge by knocking the Bucs out in the elimination game on May 11.

LAST SEASON AGAINST WINTHROP
Charleston Southern took two of three from the Eagles last season as the Bucs bounced back from a Friday loss to sweep the doubleheader over April 14-15, 2017 at the CSU Softball Field.

Game One: Winthrop 6, CSU 3
Four costly Charleston Southern errors allowed Winthrop to rally at the plate for a 6-3 conference win.

Game Two: CSU 4, Winthrop 0
Stevi Johnson and 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.

Game Three: CSU 6, Winthrop 4
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.

Big South First Round: CSU 5, Winthrop 4
A solo home run from Georgi DeLio in the bottom of the sixth inning and a relentless Charleston Southern defense carried the Buccaneers to a 5-4 win over Winthrop in the Big South Championship opener at Lancer Field.

Big South Elimination Game: Winthrop 8, CSU 0
Dominant pitching pushed Winthrop past Charleston Southern, 8-0, in the Big South Championship elimination game at Lancer Field.Kiley Majette held the Bucs to just two hits and retired eight batters on strikes in the complete game effort.

Quick Hits
>Jade Gandara continues to swing the hot bat for the CSU lineup in the 2018 season with the junior slugger sitting among the Big South and the NCAA leaders this year in multiple categories. Gandara paces the Bucs in batting average (.429), runs (24), hits (36), home runs (10), and RBI (34).
>In addition to her hitting numbers, Gandara is one of the toughest players in the Big South Conference to strike out with just four in her 84 at-bats this year.
>Mallory Kasinger is also among the conference's power leaders on the plate this season with the sophomore catcher leading CSU with seven doubles to go with six home runs and 23 RBI.
>Caitlyn Emberson has been effective in the leadoff role this year for the CSU lineup. The junior catcher/first baseman has drawn 20 walks and been hit 10 times to lead the Bucs with a .505 on-base percentage.
>Five newcomers and eight players overall have hit home runs in 2018. Freshmen Nina Del Rio (5) and Sarah Brown (5) have provided pop in the middle of the lineup for the Bucs.
>Freshmen Meghan Gagliano (13) and Kendall Anderson (12) have helped a speedy CSU lineup on the season with the duo combining for 25 of the Bucs' 46 stolen bases on the year.
>Holly Clark has a team-high 11 starts and 14 appearances on the season to go with three shutouts in 2018. Arizona Pilgrim has also posted double-digit starts with 10 on the year to go with a 6-4 record and a team-high 60.2 innings' pitched.
>Three different CSU pitchers have accounted for all of CSU's wins in 2018. Pilgrim (6-4), Alyssa Heinrich (5-1), and Clark (5-5) have accounted for all but one decision for CSU this season.

RECAPPING CSU'S EARLY SCHEDULE
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 16-11 record following Tuesday's loss to Eastern Illinois. 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 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 a three-game stretch with wins over Savannah State, Norfolk State, and Wright State, before falling in a trio of games entering this weekend's conference opener.

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 32 home runs over the first 27 games of the year, sitting tied for eighth overall in the NCAA in home runs per game over the first four weekends.

TOUGH TOURNAMENT SLATE
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 competed 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 came off another trip to the NCAA Super Regional before falling to Texas A&M.

NCAA Top 50 Categories
Charleston Southern enters the week in the top 50 in four different team statistical categories heading into the weekend. The Bucs are 12th overall in home runs per game (1.19), 15th in slugging percentage (0.504), 32nd in scoring (5.81), and 38th in stolen bases per game (1.70).

Jade Gandara continues her slugging ways to sit in the top 10 in three individual categories on the year. The junior outfielder is fifth in home runs (10), seventh in RBI (34), and seventh in total bases (73). Gandara is also among the leaders in hits (36, 19th), RBI per game (1.26, 22nd), and slugging percentage (0.869, 28th).

Caitlyn Emberson is among the national leaders in hit by pitch per game and walks. Emberson is 17th in the NCAA in HBPs per game at 0.37, and 25th in walks per game at 0.74. Meghan Gagliano is among the national leaders in stolen bases per game sitting 40th at 0.59.

PUTTING UP RUNS IN A HURRY
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 second in the Big South with 5.81 runs per game. CSU has put up less than four runs just seven games in the 2018 season and has eclipsed eight runs on eight 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 is hitting .298 as a team this year.

OPPONENTS CAN'T SCORE
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 27 games of the season and have held opponents under four runs in 12 different games on the year. The Bucs entered the week fourth in the conference with a 2.90 ERA on the season paced by Holly Clark's 2.44 mark for the year. Clark, Arizona Pilgrim, and Alyssa Heinrich are also in the top 10 in the Big South in opponent batting average.

Winkler HITS 250 CAREER WINS
Head Coach Shane Winkler became the fourth Big South coach to earn 250 career wins when the CSU skipper achieved the mark on Friday, March 9 in the 8-4 win against Wright State. Winkler, in his 10th season with the Bucs, is the fourth coach in Big South history to achieve the wins mark and is CSU Softball's all-time winningest coach in program history. Winkler joins Winthrop's Mark Cooke and former coaches Coastal Carolina's Jess Dannelly and Liberty's Paul Wetmore as the only coaches in Big South history to achieve 250 career wins at their institution.

Significant Winkler Milestone Wins
1 - W, 10-0 vs. N.C. Central, February 6, 2009
50 - W, 4-1 vs. CofC, April 21, 2010
100 - W, 1-0 at Coastal Carolina, March 28, 2012
150 - W, 5-0 at Gardner-Webb, April 18, 2014
200 - W, 8-5 vs. Radford, March 21, 2016
250 - W, 8-4 vs. Wright State, March 9, 2018

BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jade Gandara earned the recognition for the second time this season after leading Charleston Southern to a perfect 6-0 record 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.

CSU BIG SOUTH PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Week 1 – Jade Gandara, OF
Week 3 – Jade Gandara, OF

BIG SOUTH PITCHER OF THE WEEK
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.

CSU BIG SOUTH PITCHERS OF THE WEEK
Week 3 – Holly Clark, RHP

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