CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern hits the road this weekend as the Buccaneers continue Big South Conference play at Kamphuis Field at Liberty Softball Stadium with a three-game series against host Liberty University. The Bucs and Flames will start the weekend off on Friday evening at 6 p.m., while Saturday's doubleheader is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
The Bucs enter the weekend looking to snap their longest losing streak of 2018. CSU dropped a doubleheader on the road to Furman and fell in all three contests at home this past weekend Campbell prior to taking on the Flames.
CSU enters the weekend hoping to take control of its own tournament destiny. The Bucs enter the final six games of the Big South Conference regular season tied with Winthrop with matching 6-9 conference records. CSU and Winthrop are both tied for sixth with the Bucs still traveling to Liberty and hosting Radford, while the Eagles are on the road at both Longwood and Liberty.
The Bucs struggled over the past week with CSU surrendering 14 home runs over the last five games against both Furman and Campbell. The stretch dropped the Bucs' record to 4-7 in April and 25-24 overall with seven games still remaining in the regular season.
CSU continues to sit among the national leaders in both home runs and stolen bases per game. The Bucs are 18th in the NCAA in home runs per game (1.08) and 23rd in stolen bases per game (1.92) on the year.
The Bucs will close out the 2018 regular season at South Carolina (May 2) and with a three-game series against Radford (May 4-5) over Senior Day weekend.
All three games will be streamed live via ESPN3. Live stats for all games this weekend can be accessed on the CSU Softball schedule page with in-game updates provided on the CSU Twitter accounts, @CSUSports and @CSUGameDay
Liberty enters the weekend series with the Buccaneers with a 33-12 overall record on the season and a 12-3 mark in Big South Conference play. The Flames are coming off a series win over Radford this past weekend in Radford, Va., as well as a Tuesday night home win over Virginia Tech. The Flames' three-game winning streak snapped a four-game losing span that included a conference series loss to Longwood.
Liberty opened the season with wins in nine of their first 10 games, including victories over Chattanooga, Toledo, Delaware State (twice), North Carolina, and Central Michigan. The Flames won their first 10 Big South games this season, but since then have lost three of their last five to Longwood and Radford. Liberty is an impressive 14-3 at home this season at Kamphuis Field at Liberty Softball Stadium this season.
Autumn Bishop leads four Flames hitting over .300 on the season with a .385 batting average to go with a team-high 57 hits and 38 runs scored. Liberty is hitting .290 as a team from the plate this year. The Flames are not afraid to run on the base paths with eight different players recording at least six steals on the season, to go with 69 doubles and 15 triples.
Julia DiMartino is the ace in the circle this season for the Flames with a 2.14 ERA and a 19-7 overall record. She has 17 complete games and six shutouts in 163.2 innings pitched. She added a 167:40 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year. Elizabeth Engler (6-2) and Chase Cassady (7-2) could also see time in the circle this weekend.
Liberty was picked second in the 2018 Big South Softball preseason poll with 56 points and one first-place vote overall. Amber Bishop was voted the Preseason Player of the Year, while DiMartino received Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors.
The Bucs and Flames first took the field against each other in the 1995 season according to the most up-to-date records in the CSU archives. The Flames took the inaugural matchup, 5-4, at the Radford Tournament. In recent history, Liberty has won the last five games. Last season Liberty took their first sweep over the Bucs in the regular season since 2009 when the Flames won all three contests at home.
Last Season Against Liberty
Liberty took all four games against the Buccaneers last season with a series sweep at the CSU Softball Field on March 17-18. The Flames also topped CSU in the first game of the Big South Championships softball tournament.
GAME ONE: LIBERTY 12, CSU 0 (5)
Charleston Southern was unable to spark a rally at the plate and was shutout in the conference opener by Liberty, 12-0. Amber and Autumn Bishop led Liberty with the freshman duo combining for seven RBI.
GAME TWO: LIBERTY 5, CSU 3
Charleston Southern scored early, but fell short of a late comeback as the Bucs fell to Liberty, 5-3, in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. Stevi Johnson led the Buccaneers at the plate with two hits, highlighted by a triple in the bottom of the seventh to score two runs.
GAME THREE: LIBERTY 12, CSU 8
Jade Gandara hit a game-high three home runs, while sister Cheyenne Gandara and sophomore Caitlyn Emberson rounded out CSU's five home runs in the Bucs 12-8 loss in the series closer with Liberty.
GAME FOUR: LIBERTY 11, CSU 3 (5)
Errors in the field and cold bats consequently dealt Charleston Southern an 11-3 loss to No. 1 seed Liberty in game four of the Big South Championship at Lancer Field. After a hot offensive start, the Buccaneers' defense couldn't keep pace as four errors in the field allowed Liberty to score three unearned runs.
>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 hits (55), home runs (13), RBI (48), batting average (.390), and slugging percentage (.752).
>Mallory Kasinger has also proven to be adept at the plate this season with the sophomore utility player hitting .300 from the plate to go with a team-high 10 doubles. She is also second on the team with 12 home runs and 41 RBI.
>Caitlyn Emberson has continued to be effective for CSU this season. The junior utility player leads the team with 29 walks on the season to go with 21 hit by pitches on her way to leading the team with a .478 on-base percentage. She added her seventh home run against Campbell and has nine doubles on the year.
>Annie Bakenhus moved up in the lineup and took on the cleanup role over the last week. The junior centerfielder is hitting .347 from the plate with six doubles and 13 stolen bases on the year.
>Junior Arizona Pilgrim and sophomore Holly Clark have combined for 53 appearances and 35 starts over CSU's 49 games played this season. Pilgrim leads the Bucs with eight wins and 74 strikeouts. Clark is among the team leaders with seven wins and four complete games to go with a team-high three shutouts.
>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 116 assists on the year.