Christian homers twice as Buccaneers top UMBC and Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon

Christian homers twice as Buccaneers top UMBC and Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern had everything clicking both offensively and inside the circle on Saturday afternoon as the Buccaneers topped UMBC in their opener, 8-0, and topped Southern Illinois in the nightcap, 11-1.

It was a complete team effort by the Buccaneers led by Marci Christian from the plate as the redshirt senior connected on her first two home runs of the season to pace the Bucs to two mercy-rule wins on the afternoon as the Bucs improved to 3-0 on the season.

"Our focus has been the next 200 feet," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "When you think about a car and driving at night, all you can see in the headlights is the 200 feet in front of you. We've been keeping that focus on the next pitch and our girls have been embracing that concept and done a great job this weekend. You can see offensively how we've been with a number of extra base hits and we've come out swinging the bats well. Now we're focusing on turning the page to Ohio State and a big opportunity tomorrow."

Amanda Matsumoto and Marci Christian had five hits apiece for the Bucs, while overall six players had multi-hit games for the Bucs on the afternoon as CSU out-hit their opponents 25-8, 10-2 in extra base-hits in the pair of wins.

"Offense is contagious," Winkler said. "When a couple of players are going well, it begins to snowball to the entire team. The game is all about confidence and when you have a few people starting to feel it and getting on a roll, the entire team starts to feel more confident and connect. We've been led so far by Mats (Amanda Matsumoto) whose been doing a great job getting on base and setting the table."

Cheyenne Gandara (2-0) and Jennifer Giles (1-0) were the beneficiaries of the CSU bats on the afternoon as the duo each hurled complete games, combining for 11 strikeouts while scattering eight hits over the 10 innings of play.

"We knew going into the season the strength of our team is our pitching staff," Winkler commented. "Both Jen (Giles) and Cheyenne (Gandara) had solid seasons last year and we have a freshman (Hayley Elkins) who is still waiting to get in there and make a difference as well. Pitching is a big strength and if we can continue to hit behind them like we are, we're going to be a tough team to beat."

Christian's pair of home runs gave her a team-high five RBI on the afternoon, while the pair of home runs moved the Arvonia, Va. native into third all-time in the CSU career home run list, passing Robin Cooper (1986-89) with 21 career home runs with the Bucs.

"Marci (Christian) is a difference maker," Winker said. "That first home run was special for all of us. Coming off of an ACL injury, for her to get that first one was just a big weight off her shoulders. The second one was one of the farthest balls I've ever seen hit here at our park."

Charleston Southern continues play on Sunday afternoon as they close out the first CSU Tournament against Ohio State. First pitch between the Bucs and the Buckeyes is set for 1 p.m. on the CSU Softball Field.

Game One: Charleston Southern 8, UMBC 0 (5 inn.)

Charleston Southern took control of their first game on Saturday afternoon early with two runs in the bottom of the first giving starter Jennifer Giles all the support she needed as the Bucs topped UMBC for the second time in as many days, 8-0.

CSU's first five batters in the lineup, Amanda Matsumoto, Marci Christian, Stevi Johnson, Georgi DeLio and Cheyenne Gandara, combined to go 12-for-18 from the plate with seven runs scored and six RBI to pace the CSU offense in the game. CSU sent 10 players to the plate in the second inning in taking control early in cruising to the victory.

Giles went the distance inside the circle allowing four hits and walking one, while striking out three in her first appearance of the season. The senior right-hander was never in trouble in the contest only allowing one runner in scoring position in the entire game.

UMBC threatened in the top of the first as Bridget O'Malley connected on a one-out double to right field. After Giles set down Kaelin Jackson on strikes, Taylor Hall drew a walk to put two-on with two out. Giles rebounded to get a fielder's choice on a chopper to third that Stephanie Baro picked up and made the play to end the inning.

The Bucs struck for two in the bottom of the first with DeLio connecting on a one-out double in the left centerfield gap scoring Matsumoto and Christian to give CSU the early lead. Matsumoto led off the frame with a bunt single and Christian reached on an infield single to set the table to DeLio.

CSU took control of the game in the bottom of the second as Brook Richardson led off inning with a triple to right field. Matsumoto followed with an RBI double in the right centerfield gap for the first run of the inning and Johnson, Stephanie Bergmann, and Baro all had RBI in the inning as the Bucs went ahead 6-0.

The Bucs loaded the bases in the bottom of the third before finally putting the game away in the fifth as Christian drove in Matsumoto with an RBI double and Johnson followed with an RBI single to close out game one for CSU on the day.

Matsumoto had her second straight three-hit game to open the season, connecting on a pair of doubles while scoring a team-high three runs in the game. DeLio added three hits and a pair of RBIs.

Game Two: Charleston Southern 11, Southern Illinois 1 (5 inn.)

Cheyenne Gandara gave up a solo home run in the top of the third, but shutdown the Salukis offense the rest of the way and Charleston Southern exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the fourth as CSU improved to 3-0 on the season with the 11-1 win.

Marci Christian connected on her first two home runs of the season, a two-run shot to straightaway centerfield in the bottom of the first and a solo shot to left in the third to lead the Bucs offense in the contest. The redshirt senior finished the game with three hits, three runs scored and four RBI.

Gandara picked up where she left off in the season opener in going the distance for the second straight day, scattering four hits while striking out eight in the win.

Gandara struck out the side in the top of the first and the Bucs offense gave her the lead early as Christian connected on the two-run shot early to put the Bucs ahead 2-0. Matsumoto led off the frame with a bunt single and Christian jumped on the offering from SIU starter Katie Bertelsen (0-2) driving out her first home run of the season.

The Salukis took one back in the top of the third as Savannah Fisher connected on her first home run of the season, taking the Gandara offering over the fence in right center.

Christian answered for the Bucs in the bottom half of the frame with one of the longest home runs of her career to double the CSU lead back to 3-1.

After Gandara retired the side in order in the top of the fourth, CSU's offense chased Bertelsen from the game as the Bucs sent 13 batters to the plate and took advantage of two SIU errors to plate eight runs in building the double-digit lead. Johnson and DeLio both had a pair of RBI in the inning as the Bucs batted around for the third time in as many games on the weekend.

SIU threatened to extend the game in the top of the fifth as the Salukis loaded the bases with one out, but Gandara escaped the jam on an infield popup and a fly ball to Brook Richardson in left field to close out the game.