CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern returns home to the CSU Softball Field for its Big South home opening weekend on Saturday and Sunday as the Buccaneers host Longwood. The three-game series between the two rivals is set to start with first pitch in Saturday's doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday's single game is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
The month of March has been a tough stretch for the Bucs with CSU entering the weekend with a 4-11 mark over the third month of the calendar year. CSU has lost six of its last seven, including two of three last weekend in the Big South opener at Winthrop. The Bucs bounced back behind a pair of two-run home runs against Caitlyn Emberson and Jade Gandara to take the series finale, 2-1.
This past Wednesday saw the Bucs struggle on the road against former Big South foe Coastal Carolina. Mallory Kasinger's double in the top of the fifth was CSU's lone tally in this hits column against the Chanticleers as CCU utilized a late home run to secure the non-conference win.
While CSU's March struggles have offset a hot start to the 2018 season, the CSU Softball Field has proven to be a tough place for opponents to come to and compete. The Bucs boast a 14-4 mark on the friendly playing surface, including an impressive 12-3 mark over the first three tournament weekends.
The Bucs' schedule the remainder of the season is Big South-heavy with only midweek non-conference matchups against College of Charleston (twice), Savannah State, Furman, and South Carolina left on the slate.
Live stats for all games this weekend can be accessed on the CSU Softball schedule page, while Saturday's first game will be streamed live via ESPN3.
Longwood opened conference play last weekend with a three-game sweep over visiting Radford this past weekend in Farmville, Va. The Lancers took the doubleheader on Saturday and then closed out the Sunday series finale winning a pitchers' duel with the 1-0 win over the Highlanders.
The Lancers' early season success has been accentuated with a win over No. 15 California in the Aloha Tournament, as well as a split against perennial power James Madison. Longwood enters the weekend with a 15-8 overall record on the year and a six-game winning streak that includes the 7-4 win over James Madison, as well as wins over Hawaii and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The three-time defending Big South Champions and winners of four of the last five tournaments, Longwood was once again selected the conference's preseason favorites after receiving 60 points and five first-place votes. The Lancers went 30-29 overall last season, 13-8 in Big South play on the year.
Jessica Smith has been Longwood's batting average leader on the season with a team-high .368 average on the season. Returning All-Conference catcher Kaylynn Batten is also among the team leader with a .328 average to go with six doubles and a trio of home runs. Jordan Clark has provided plenty of power from the plate with a team-high six home runs to go with 19 runs scored and 26 hits.
Gone is All-Conference hurler Elizabeth McCarthy, but the Sydney trio appears to have things well in hand in the circle for the Lancers this season. Sydney Backstrom leads the Lancers efforts with a team-high 18 appearances and a 1.51 ERA. Sydney Gay has a 9-5 record and 13 starts on the year, while Sydney Mundell has a 1.40 ERA in seven appearances.
The Bucs and Lancers have faced off against each other since the 1988 season with Longwood taking the inaugural matchup on April 8, 1988, 8-7. Since joining the Big South in 2013, the Lancers hold the 14-4 advantage over the Bucs. CSU's first two wins against the Lancers came in the Bucs' 2014 Big South Championship run. In their last matchup at the CSU Softball Field, the Bucs took two of three from the Lancers to win the season series.
Last season against Longwood
Longwood swept the season series against the Buccaneers last season in Farmville, Va. at Lancer Field on April 21-22.
Game One: Longwood 3, CSU 2
Longwood scored three in the bottom of the seventh to offset a two-run home run from Stevi Johnson as the Bucs fell in the opener at Lancer Field on Friday afternoon.
Game Two: Longwood 2, CSU 0
Charleston Southern's offense fell short in game two as powerful pitching paced the Lancers past the Bucs, 2-0. Sydney Gay led Longwood in the circle with six strikeouts through six innings. Elizabeth McCarthy closed out the shutout win with three strikeouts in the seventh inning for the senior's first save of the season.
Game Three: Longwood 3, CSU 0
Charleston Southern was unable to overcome another dominant pitching performance from the Longwood pitching staff in falling to the Lancers, 3-0, on Saturday afternoon at Lancer Field. Elizabeth McCarthy led Longwood in the circle with six strikeouts and allowed just two hits to complete the shutout on the Lancers' Senior Day.
>Jade Gandara continues to be a force at the plate for the CSU lineup in the 2018 season. The junior outfielder leads the Bucs in runs scored (25), hits (40), home runs (11), RBI (36), batting average (.417), and slugging percentage (.833).
>Mallory Kasinger has also proven to be adept at the plate this season with the sophomore utility player hitting .337 from the plate to go with a team-high eight doubles. She is also second on the team with eight home runs and 28 RBI.
>Caitlyn Emberson has continued to be effective in the leadoff role for CSU this season. The junior utility player leads the team with 22 walks on the season to go with 12 hit by pitches on her way to leading the team with a .496 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 (15) and Kendall Anderson (14) have helped a speedy CSU lineup on the season with the duo combining for 29 of the Bucs' 56 stolen bases on the season.
>Junior Arizona Pilgrim and sophomore Holly Clark have combined for 32 appearances and 24 starts over CSU's 31 games played this season. Pilgrim and Clark are tied for the team lead with six wins apiece, while Pilgrim leads the team with 52 strikeouts. Both right-handers are tied with four complete games apiece.
>Freshman third baseman Sarah Brown has been one of the top infielders in the Big South this season with the athlete sitting among the conference leaders with a team-high 72 assists on the year.