Willie Jewell's Invitational Preview: Buccaneers host St. Bonaventure, Hartford, and George Mason over final home tournament weekend

Willie Jewell's Invitational Preview: Buccaneers host St. Bonaventure, Hartford, and George Mason over final home tournament weekend

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues the 2018 season this weekend as the Buccaneers close out their third and final home tournament of the softball slate. Ten games will be played at the CSU Softball Field as the Bucs host the Willie Jewell's Invitational this weekend.

The Bucs host St. Bonaventure, George Mason, and Hartford over the weekend as CSU will look to continue their early season success. CSU has posted winning records over each of the two opening weekends on its way to boasting a 6-3 record over their first nine games. The Bucs went 3-1 during the opening Wingate by Wyndham Invitational. CSU followed up with a 3-2 record this past weekend at the Buccaneer Invitational with wins over Eastern Kentucky and N.C. Central.

CSU Game Notes - Willie Jewell's Invitational

The matchup against St. Bonaventure marks the first time the two teams have taken the field against each other since the 2014 season. CSU swept both contests against the Bonnies in the second tournament weekend with back-to-back shutouts in the wins. Another familiar tournament foe returns to the CSU Softball Field this weekend as the Bucs take on George Mason. The Bucs split their two games against the Patriots to open the 2013 season. CSU and Hartford have only lined up against each other once in program history. The Bucs hosted the Hawks in the 2007 season with CSU taking the 8-0 win at the CSU Tournament.

None of CSU's current players have lined up against anyone in this weekend's tournament field.

Live stats for all games this weekend can be accessed at the CSU Softball Spring Tournament Central page.

Facing St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure is one of two teams to open the 2018 season this weekend at the Willie Jewell's Invitational hosted at the CSU Softball Field. The Bonnies will participate in three tournaments prior to opening the primary portion of the Atlantic 10 schedule. St. Bonaventure will travel to the Morgan State tournament on March 2-4 and the Belmont/Tennessee State Invitational on March 16-18.

The Bonnies were picked 10th overall in the Atlantic 10 preseason softball poll. St. Bonaventure received 14 points overall in head coach Mike Threehouse's 19th season with the team. The Bonnies return 17 letter winners returning from last year's team that posted a 12-37 overall record and 2-17 mark in conference play.

The Bonnies will again be led by the battery of seniors Josie Borysevicz and Morgan Phillips. Last season, Borysevicz led the team with six wins in the circle and posted a 4.61 ERA. The native of Ashford, Conn. tossed a total of 120 innings and pitched 11 complete games for the Bonnies. Returning to the outfield this season will be sophomore Elizabeth Enovitch. Enovitch started 39 games for the Bonnies last season and hit .233. She is the leading returning base-stealer for the Bonnies with nine from last season.

St. Bonaventure will not be playing another Big South opponent in the 2018 season. The Bonnies lead the all-time series against the Buccaneers, 3-2, dating back to the 2004 season. CSU has won each of the last two contests.

Facing George Mason
George Mason opened the 2018 season this past weekend at the Madeira Beach Showcase hosted in Madeira Beach, Fla. The Patriots won the opener against Eastern Michigan, before dropping contests to Lipscomb, Virginia, and Monmouth. Mason closed out the weekend with a 6-2 win over Abilene Christian. The Patriots add three more tournaments to their slate following the Willie Jewell's Invitational. Mason will host the Patriot Classic on March 2-4 and the Cherry Blossom Classic on March 10-12. They will also participate in the Stetson Hatter Roundup on March 15 in DeLand, Fla.

The Patriots were picked sixth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll after receiving 53 votes. Head Coach Joe Verbanic enters his 14th season with the program and looks to guide his team to the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the second year in a row.

George Mason returns 13 letter winners from the previous season and welcomes eight newcomers to the roster. Notable returners include 2017 A-10 Co-Pitcher of the Year Marina Vitalich and redshirt junior Liz Seymour. Seymour missed the entire 2017 season due to injury, but her .354/.393/.532 career slash line will provide the Patriots the return of her impact bat in the middle of the lineup. Among players currently on the roster, Seymour's .925 OPS is the highest on the team.

Vitalich is on the verge of re-writing the record books this season. The San Pedro, Calif. native checks in 17 strikeouts shy of breaking the program record for a career, and is nine shutouts shy of becoming the program record holder in that department. Vitalich also has four career saves, making her two shy of breaking that school record as well.

George Mason leads the all-time series against the Buccaneers. The Patriots have won three of the four matchups against the Bucs, but CSU is coming off its first win in the series, a 6-4 victory at the 2013 CSU Tournament on February 9, 2013.

Facing Hartford
Hartford is the second of the two teams to open the season this weekend at the Willie Jewell's Invitational at the CSU Softball Field. The Hawks will participate in a second tournament in Baltimore, Md. on March 2-4 before opening America East play at the end of the month.

The Hawks were picked seventh overall in the America East softball preseason poll with Hartford receiving seven points. Hartford will be taking the field this weekend for the first time under first-year head coach Angie Churchill, who helms the staff after two seasons at Wagner.

The Hawks posted a 4-45 season last year but picked up a first-round win over Stony Brook in the first round of the America East Softball Championships. Isabella Gerone pitched the Hawks to the complete game, 2-1, win over the Seawolves for their first tournament win since the 2007 season.

Gerone and Bianca Ross return as the top returning pitchers on the staff. The duo combined for 60 strikeouts and eight complete games over 42 appearances. Kristen DeCiantis reprises her role as one of the top hitters in the Hartford lineup after recording three doubles.

CSU won its only matchup against the Hawks. The two teams took each other on in the 2007 season at a CSU tournament with the Bucs topping Hartford, 8-0.

Quick Hits
>Thanks to the power outburst over the last weekend, Charleston Southern sits atop the Big South rankings with a league-high .526 slugging percentage over their first nine games.
>The Bucs lead the conference in runs scored per game on the season. CSU is averaging 6.22 runs per game on their way to posting a 6-3 record.
>Jade Gandara continues to lead CSU's batting efforts at the plate. The junior outfielder leads the Bucs with a .500 batting average, 14 hits, three home runs, and 12 RBI.
>Taylor Gleason took over the team's slugging percentage lead following her pair of home runs over the past weekend. She paces the Bucs with a .933 slugging percentage.
>Mallory Kasinger leads the team with four doubles on the year.
>Caitlyn Emberson is tied with Jade Gandara for the team lead with nine runs scored.

Friendly Schedule Ahead
Charleston Southern's early-season schedule is a boon for the Buccaneers as CSU will play its first 17 games of 2018 in friendly territory. The Bucs host the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational (Feb. 9-11), the Buccaneer Invitational (Feb. 16-18), and the Willie Jewell's Invitational (Feb. 23-25) to open tournament play. The Bucs add a midweek matchup against St. Bonaventure on February 28 before making their first trip on the road on March 2-4 for the Tennessee Invitational hosted by the University of Tennessee. CSU has won 49 home games over the last three seasons, including 22 in the 2015 season.

Tough Tournament Slate
Similar to most schools around the country, Charleston Southern takes on a challenging preseason slate as the Buccaneers will compete in five separate tournaments prior to opening Big South Conference play on March 16. Along with CSU's three home tournaments, the Bucs will also compete at the Tennessee Invitational hosted by Tennessee and the Holy City Showdown hosted by College of Charleston. Tennessee is the highest-ranked opponent on the schedule heading into the season as the Volunteers were selected 11/12 overall in the two major polls. The Volunteers are coming off another trip to the NCAA Super Regional before falling to Texas A&M.

Putting Up Runs in a Hurry
Charleston Southern's offense has been the conference's best in putting up runs in the early portion of the 2018 season as the Buccaneers pace the Big South with 6.22 runs per game. CSU has put up less than four runs just once in the 2018 season and has eclipsed eight runs on four separate occasions, including 15 in CSU's five-inning victory over Towson. The Bucs have run-ruled opponents on three separate occasions this season and currently are one of four conference teams to be hitting above .300 at .316.

Opponents Can't Score
Coinciding with CSU's run output at the plate, the Buccaneers' pitching staff has been getting it done in the circle. Over the first nine games, CSU has posted four shutouts including two this past weekend against Eastern Kentucky and North Carolina Central. Holly Clark has been lights out for the Bucs in her weekend debuts posting a two-hit shutout in the opener against North Dakota and followed up with a four-hit scoreless outing against Eastern Kentucky. Alyssa Heinrich and Emily Visnic combined for a two-hit outing in CSU's 6-0 win over North Carolina A&T over the opening weekend, while Arizona Pilgrim completed the shutout in an 8-0 win over N.C. Central this past Sunday.

Freshmen Power
Along with returning power bats Jade Gandara and Mallory Kasinger, the Bucs' freshmen started to connect over the past weekend. Four different freshmen connected on five home runs, including a grand slam at the Buccaneer Invitational as the newcomers played a huge role in the CSU's winning record over the opening weekend. Madison Koger and Taylor Gleason connected on back-to-back shots in the bottom of the seventh against Valparaiso in the weekend opener. Gleason added a grand slam in the first inning in the win over EKU. Del Rio became the third freshman to homer with a shot against the Crusaders on Saturday afternoon. Sarah Brown added a solo home run in the weekend finale against N.C. Central becoming the fourth Buc freshman to put one out of the CSU Softball Field this season.

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