CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern jumped out to an early lead and the Buccaneers took advance of strong pitching performances by Nik Constantakos and Eddie Hiott in taking the series finale against visiting Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday afternoon, 4-2.
Cole German connected on his team-leading third home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning to provide insurance for the CSU (4-2) bullpen and Ryan Stoudemire shut the door on the contest with a strikeout in the ninth to record his first save of the season.
Hiott (1-0) picked up his first win of the season in relief for CSU as the junior left-hander made an immediate impact upon entry in the game on Sunday. Hiott helped the Bucs out of a fifth inning bases-loaded jam with a pair of strikeouts to keep the CSU lead intact. Over the next two innings, Hiott retired four more batters on strikes and allowed an unearned run before turning the ball over to the late-inning staff.
Constantakos recorded his second strong outing of the season with the freshman displaying some power from the mound early. One week after recording two strikeouts over 7.1 innings in a win against Delaware State, the Jupiter, Fla. native recorded seven on Sunday against the Rams including getting batters swinging to end the first, third, and fourth frames.
Brandon Gragilla recorded his first multi-hit game of the season with the senior infielder short-hopping the centerfield wall with a double in his first at-bat, and added a single later in the contest. Aaron Miller (2-for-3) and German (2-for-4) also added multi-hit efforts in the Bucs' second win over VCU.
VCU (2-4) starter Brooks Vial (0-2) suffered the loss in the contest with the left-hander going 5.0 innings and allowing seven hits and three runs while striking out two. Reliever Sam Donko surrendered German's home run late for the Rams in the loss.
The bottom half of the CSU lineup got the offense going early with Gragilla's lead-off double sparking the Bucs to a pair of runs in the second inning. Aaron Miller singled Gragilla over to third with one out in the frame, and then German followed with a bouncing single through the right side for his first RBI of the contest. Kyle Vesnesky added a sacrifice fly two batters later bringing home Miller to give CSU the 2-0 lead.
VCU plated their first run of the contest in the top of the third as the Rams took advantage of a Logan Farrar RBI single scoring Darian Carpenter. The Bucs defense limited the VCU rally though with Vesnesky's relay home on a Daane Berezo's double in the right centerfield gap getting Paul Will attempting to score from first.
VCU threatened in the fifth with the Rams loading the bases with none out on three consecutive singles by Alex Gransback, Witt, and Berezo. Constantakos retired Carpenter on strikes before turning the ball over to Hiott facing the heart of the Rams' lineup. The CSU lefty retired both batters on strikes in six pitches to escape the jam and keep the lead intact.
The Rams added a run in the sixth with VCU taking advantage of a CSU error extending the inning for a RBI double by Gransback.
German's solo home run led off the eighth and shutout relief appearances by Jamison Mobbs in the eighth and Stoudemire in the ninth sealed the win for CSU.
- Charleston Southern pitchers struck out a season-high 14 batters in Sunday's contest. Constantakos (seven), Hiott (six) and Stoudemire (one) combined to record six consecutive outs on punch-outs at one point against a strong VCU offense.
- The Bucs won their third consecutive series against the Atlantic 10 with the win over VCU this weekend. CSU topped Massachusetts (3-0) and George Washington (2-1) in 2016.
- Stoudemire became the second CSU pitcher this season to record both a win and a save in a weekend this season. Stoudemire received credit for the victory in Saturday's 11-9 win, and then the freshman right-hander recorded the save on Sunday. Cody Smith recorded both a win and a save last weekend in CSU's series win against Delaware State.
"I'm really proud of these guys. It's the second weekend in a row that we took a loss on Friday night and these guys bounced back on Saturday and then again on Sunday to take the series which isn't easy to do. I'm really proud of these guys and their fight and how they came back and I hope we can keep it going." – Interim Head Coach Adam Ward on CSU's second series win of the 2017 season.
"We've been pretty reliant on the guys at the top of the order for the first five games of the year, but it's good to see some of the guys at the bottom break out like they did today. They're good hitters too and we've seen them have days like this. We have a good lineup one-through-nine that is fun to watch." – Ward on the key contributions from the bottom half of the lineup on Sunday.
Charleston Southern hosts USC Upstate in a Wednesday night contest at the CSU Ballpark on March 1. First pitch between the Bucs and the Spartans is set for 6 p.m.