SB Preview: Buccaneers welcome USC Upstate for midweek conference series

SB Preview: Buccaneers welcome USC Upstate for midweek conference series

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues the 2019 Big South Conference slate this week with a midweek conference series against USC Upstate starting on Tuesday at the CSU Softball Field. The Bucs and Spartans will battle in a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday's series finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.

The Bucs (8-23, 2-1 Big South) are coming off an impressive series win Radford this past weekend as CSU topped the Highlanders in the first and third games of the series. CSU relied heavily on the pitching of Arizona Pilgrim (20.0 IP), while Madison Koger, Caitlyn Emberson, and Rhiana Hubbard all homered on Saturday to power the CSU offense.

The first game was all Arizona Pilgrim as the senior right-hander hurled a complete game four-hitter and Charleston Southern took advantage of a two-run second inning in taking the Big South home opener over Radford, 2-1.

Sarah Brown and Meghan Gagliano drove in both CSU runs in the bottom of the second inning to give the Bucs the early lead over the visiting Highlanders. Pilgrim took over the rest of the way surrendering just a fifth-inning solo home run to Sydney Fisher in recording her fifth complete game on the year.

The Highlanders rallied back to even the series in the second game as Radford utilized a three-run seventh inning with Maggie Rowe's bases-clearing single proving the difference in the 3-1 ballgame.

In the final game, Madison Koger drove in five runs, four of which came on a first-inning grand slam, and Rhiana Hubbard connected on her first collegiate home run as the Buccaneers rallied back from an early deficit to top Radford, 9-7.

The Bucs' power stretch and pair of wins over the Highlanders to start their second season of 2019. Annie Bakenhus continues to lead CSU's offensive efforts with a .347 batting average and a team-high 33 hits. The senior outfielder has added 18 runs and eight doubles on the year.

Preseason Player of the Year candidate Jade Gandara is also among the team leaders with a .302 batting average to go with a home run and 15 RBI. Emberson is among the conference leaders in multiple categories including home runs (5), RBI (19), walks (14), and hit by pitches (10).

Freshman Brooklynn Brewington had multi-hit games in three of CSU's four contests this week to continue to highlight her standout first campaign with the Bucs. She added a three-run game in the series finale against Radford to pace the Bucs to the conference series win over the Highlanders.

Arizona Pilgrim is the leader in the circle with a team-high 23 appearances and 15 starts. The senior right-hander pitched 27.0 of 29.0 innings this past week on her way to picking up both wins over the Highlanders. Pilgrim boasts a 5-12 record with six complete games and 104.1 innings pitched. Holly Clark also has 20 appearances on the season with 11 starts while pitching 63.1 innings in the circle.

CSU will face another tough test this weekend as they take on a perennial power in first-year conference member USC Upstate. The Spartans received 70 points and two first-place votes in finishing second in the preseason poll. Upstate was paced in the preseason by co-preseason Pitcher of the Year Christina Biggerstaff. The right-hander ranked in the top-30 nationally in strikeouts last season with 229 and posted six shutouts over 193.0 innings.

Upstate has lived up to its preseason billing with the Spartans entering the week with a 21-6 overall record on the season, including sweeping the conference weekend over Presbyterian. The Spartans boast an impressive 16-1 record at home this season, but only a 1-2 mark in true road games falling to Jacksonville and LSU.

Brittany Case leads the Upstate offense with a .436 batting average to go with eight doubles and 24 RBI. Alyssa Oakes is the team leader with nine home runs and 28 RBI, while adding four doubles. Makenna Helton (18-for-18) and Sarah Price (15-for-15) are the stolen base leaders on the team.

Overall, Upstate is hitting .305 from the plate on the year with 75 stolen bases as a team.

Biggerstaff continues to show out in the circle with a 0.65 ERA to go with a 13-1 record and eight shutouts. Opponents are hitting .131 against the right-handed ace. Erin Hill (7-5, 1.20 ERA) and Celina Sullivan (2.02 ERA) have combined for 22 appearances in the circle.

The Buccaneers continue Big South play this weekend at Campbell as the Bucs embark on a 13-game road trip that will run from March 23 – April 16 and include conference series against Campbell, Presbyterian, Hampton, and Longwood.

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