CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern returns home for the final regular season matchup of 2018. The Buccaneers will close out Big South Conference play on Friday and Saturday against Radford University with first pitch on Friday set for 4 p.m. Saturday's doubleheader is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
CSU enters the weekend needing a few things to break in their favor to return to the postseason once again. The Bucs (6-12) are one game back of Winthrop (7-11) and two games back of Gardner-Webb (8-13) needing to finish ahead of either one to advance to next week's Big South Championships. Both the Eagles and the Runnin' Bulldogs have the season tiebreakers over the Bucs.
The Buccaneers are in the midst of the longest slump in the 2018 season with CSU on a 10-game losing streak dating back to the final game of the series at Gardner-Webb. The Bucs have dropped conference series to Campbell and Liberty during the stretch, while falling to No. 12 South Carolina this past Wednesday evening in Columbia, 14-0.
CSU continues to sit among the national leaders in both stolen bases and home runs per game with the Bucs the lone team in the Big South represented in the top 30 in the NCAA in both categories. CSU is 21st in stolen bases per game at 1.81 and 27th in home runs per game at 1.02.
Both of Saturday's games will be streamed live via the Big South Network with John Peters calling the action on the broadcast. 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
Radford enters the weekend series with the Buccaneers with a 31-16 overall record and an 11-7 record in Big South Conference action. The Highlanders won two of three this past weekend at home against Presbyterian. The loss in the series finale snapped a nine-game winning streak dating back to April 18.
The Highlanders opened the season winning all four games at the Eagle Round Robin Tournament to open the year and used the momentum to propel their way to the 30-win season. The Highlanders own series sweeps over Winthrop and Gardner-Webb on the year, while also picking up series wins over Campbell and Presbyterian. Radford is 14-8 in true road games on the year and 10-5 in neutral site contests.
Marissa Gagliano paces the Highlanders offense on the season and is one of four players in the regular lineup to hit over .300 on the season. The redshirt junior shortstop is hitting .372 on the year with a team-best 18 stolen bases. Talia Douglas adds a .329 batting average with 32 RBI, while Maggie Rowe (9 HR, 42 RBI) and Hunter Mundy (9 HR, 28 RBI) provide the power bats in the lineup.
Abby Morrow is the ace in the circle for the Highlanders this year with a team-best 28 starts and 34 appearances. She owns a 19-10 record and a 1.98 ERA to go with an 82:18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Highlanders' staff overall boasts impressive control with 198 strikeouts on the season against 58 walks.
Radford was picked fifth overall in the 2018 Big South Softball preseason poll with 31 points. Morrow was the second runner-up in the Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year voting.
According to current CSU records, the Bucs took on Radford back in the 1993 season winning all three contests in the season including a second round postseason matchup, 17-10. The Bucs took the final two games of the series last season in Radford winning 10-2 and 8-1. The Highlanders have won the last five series dating back to the 2011 season when CSU took two of three from RU at the CSU Softball Field.
Last Season Against Radford
Charleston Southern took two of three from the Highlanders last season at the Radford Softball Stadium. The Bucs dropped the first game of the doubleheader on April 8, before bouncing back to take the final two games of the series.
Game One: Radford 5, CSU 1
Charleston Southern was unable to keep pace with Radford's big bats as the Buccaneers fell to the Highlanders, 5-1, in Saturday's conference series opener at Radford Softball Stadium.
Game Two: CSU 10, Radford 2 (6 INN.)
Caitlyn Emberson and Jade Gandara led the Buccaneers at the plate, with the sophomore duo combining for five hits and eight RBI. Emberson connected on home runs in back-to-back at-bats for five RBI in the Buccaneer victory, while Gandara recorded two singles and a double to knock in three of CSU's 10 runs.
Game Three: CSU 8, Radford 1
Charleston Southern struck early and never let up as the Buccaneers topped the Highlanders, 8-1, in the conference series finale. Cheyenne Gandara recorded four strikeouts and allowed one run (none earned) in the complete game effort. The redshirt junior was also hot at the plate, connecting for a two-run homer in the first frame.
>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 (59), home runs (13), RBI (48), batting average (.391), and slugging percentage (.728).
>Mallory Kasinger has also proven to be adept at the plate this season with the sophomore utility player hitting .284 from the plate to go with a team-high 11 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 is second on the team with 30 walks on the season to go with 21 hit by pitches on her way to leading the team with a .456 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 .336 from the plate with six doubles and 13 stolen bases on the year.
>Junior Arizona Pilgrim and sophomore Holly Clark have combined for 58 appearances and 35 starts over CSU's 53 games played this season. Pilgrim leads the Bucs with eight wins and 78 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 122 assists on the year.