SB Preview: Bucs take the road for midweek contest with No. 12 South Carolina

SB Preview: Bucs take the road for midweek contest with No. 12 South Carolina

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern makes its final road trip of the 2018 regular season Wednesday evening as the Buccaneers travel up I-26 to Columbia, S.C. and the Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field for a contest against No. 12 South Carolina.

First pitch between the Bucs and the Gamecocks is set for 6 p.m. with the game to be streamed live via the SEC Network+. Live Stats will also be provided for the single contest, while updates will be provided on the CSU Twitter accounts @CSUSports and @CSUGameDay

The Gamecocks are the second ranked Southeastern Conference team the Buccaneers have faced in the 2018 season. CSU took on No. 7 Tennessee twice at the Tennessee Invitational on March 2-4 with the Bucs falling to the Volunteers in both games.

The Bucs dropped a 13-1 decision in the final game on Friday against UT with the Volunteers taking advantage of four CSU errors to build a commanding lead early. Sarah Brown's three-run home run was overcome by the Volunteers in the second contest as UT rallied back to take the 6-3 win and advance to the tournament championship game.

CSU has fallen in its last seven matchups against the Gamecocks dating back to the 2012 season. The Bucs won their last game against USC back on February 28, 2012, in the first game of a doubleheader. CSU alum Morgan Dowdy racked up nine strikeouts in the Bucs' win to punctuate the complete game shutout victory.

The 2018 season has been one of ups-and-downs for the Buccaneers as CSU started off the year on a hot streak with a 13-3 record in February. Since then, CSU has struggled as the Bucs enter the midweek road trip with a season-high nine game losing streak dating back to the series finale loss at Gardner-Webb on April 8.

CSU has been pretty dominant at home in 2018 with an impressive 19-11 mark at home this season. However, the road has been daunting with a 4-11 record in true away games and a 2-5 mark in neutral matchups.

The Buccaneers continue to display a blend of speed and power this season sitting among the nation's best in both stolen bases (21st) and home runs (26th) per game. The Bucs are averaging 1.81 steals per game paced by freshman Meghan Gagliano who sits 43rd in the country with 0.55 steals per game. The power numbers have also been there with the Bucs averaging 1.02 home runs per game led by Jade Gandara's team-leading 13 home runs on the year.

Gandara sits among the conference leaders in multiple categories on the year including home runs (13), runs scored (35), hits (59), RBI (48), batting average (.391), and slugging percentage (.728). Junior centerfielder Annie Bakenhus has started all 52 games for the Bucs and is hitting .333 on the year to go with six doubles and 13 stolen bases.

Sophomore utility player Mallory Kasinger is tied with Gandara for the most extra base hits on the team with 12 home runs and 11 doubles on the year. She is also second on the team with 41 RBI while splitting time at both catcher and first base.

Junior right-hander Arizona Pilgrim is the team's ace in the circle with a team-leading eight wins and four complete games in 31 appearances. She has made 18 starts with 109.1 innings' pitched on the year and a team-leading 77 strikeouts.

Freshman right-hander Alyssa Heinrich has also been among the team's best in the circle on the year with 26 appearances and a 7-4 record. She has a team-high two saves and a 3.61 ERA over 73.2 innings.

The Bucs take on a talented Gamecocks' team that boasts a 41-11 overall record and a 24-2 mark in Columbia this season. South Carolina has won seven consecutive games including a sweep over Missouri, a midweek win over USC Upstate, and a sweep over No. 24 Mississippi State.

Mackenzie Boesel leads the Gamecocks' offense with a .350 batting average to go with 43 runs scored, 14 doubles, and 35 RBI. Alyssa VanDerveer is the power bat in the middle of the lineup with a team-high 12 home runs, while Kenzi Maguire (.333, 11 SBs) and Kamryn Watts (.268, 11 SBs) pace the speed efforts on the base paths.

All three USC pitchers have made double-digit starts in the circle paced by ace Cayla Drotar. She leads USC in most statistical categories with an 18-4 record and 14 complete games in 139.0 innings. Kelsey Oh is the strikeout specialist in the circle with a 105:44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 113.1 innings pitched.

The Bucs will close out the regular season this weekend against Radford on May 4-5 at the CSU Softball Field. CSU will recognize 2018 seniors Nicole Ayala and Laina Holmgren in a pregame ceremony prior to Friday's single game.

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