Buccaneer Invitational Preview: CSU continues 2018 season with home weekend slate against Valpo, EKU, and N.C. Central

Buccaneer Invitational Preview: CSU continues 2018 season with home weekend slate against Valpo, EKU, and N.C. Central

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues the 2018 season this weekend as the Buccaneers are back at home with the Buccaneer Invitational. The Bucs continue their tournament trend over the last four seasons as CSU once again will open the year with three consecutive tournaments at the CSU Softball Field.

CSU hosts Eastern Kentucky, North Carolina Central, and Valparaiso over the weekend as the Bucs look to build off their opening success. The Bucs posted a 3-1 overall record over the opening weekend with wins over North Dakota, N.C. A&T, and Towson.

Buccaneer Invitational Game Notes

The matchup against Eastern Kentucky marks the first time the two teams have taken the field against each other in the 2002 season. EKU took the contest, 9-1, at the Winthrop Tournament on March 15, 2002. The Buccaneer Invitational also marks the first time CSU has hosted N.C. Central since the 2009 season. The Bucs swept the Eagles to open the season in head coach Shane Winkler's first season at the helm. CSU fell in both their previous two matchups against Valparaiso and is 0-3 against the Crusaders according to the Bucs' record books on-hand. Valpo topped CSU twice at the Buccaneer Invitational in 2013.

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 Valparaiso
Valparaiso went 2-2 over the opening weekend at the Troy Tournament hosted by Troy University on February 9-11. The Crusaders fell in the season opener to SIU Edwardsville, before rallying with a pair of wins over Tennessee State. Valpo fell in their tournament finale against Troy, 7-0. Their final contest against SIUE was called due to inclement weather.

The Crusaders were picked ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason softball poll. Valpo received 19 points in their first season in the MVC under fourth-year head coach Kate Stake. Returning to the team are Carly Trepanier and Jaymee Lawton who started every game last season.  The junior duo had a combined 96 hits, 52 runs scored and 143 total bases.

Addi Burke led Valpo's offensive efforts over the opening weekend with five hits over nine at-bats. Lawton also stood out at the plate over the first four games with a .400 batting average, a double, and a home run to go with a team-high four RBI. Emily Richardson and Ashlyn Montgomery both posted 0.00 ERA's over the opening weekend with Richardson hurling a complete-game six inning one-hit shutout over Tennessee State.

Valpo topped the Bucs twice in the 2013 season at the Buccaneer Invitational. The Crusaders topped the Bucs, 9-1, in the opener, while a trio of errors led to four runs in the weekend finale as Valpo won 6-5.

Facing Eastern Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky went 3-1 over the opening weekend at the Total Control Sports Invitational hosted at The Dome in Rosemont, Ill. The Colonels picked up wins over Fort Wayne, Northern Colorado, and Loyola University Chicago over the opening weekend while falling to DePaul.

The Colonels were picked seventh overall in the Ohio Valley Conference's preseason softball poll. EKU received 139 points and one first-place vote. Jacksonville State was selected to win the preseason Ohio Valley Conference crown after picking up its sixth regular-season and tournament crown in 2017. EKU is one of two OVC teams the Bucs will face in the 2018 season; CSU will also take on Eastern Illinois at the Holy City Showdown on March 11, and host the Panthers on March 13.

Hannah Clark leads the EKU offense on the season with a .455 batting average with five hits in 11 at-bats. Clark added a double, a triple, and three RBI while adding three runs scored. Tori Peterson is the leader in the circle for the Colonels with a perfect 0.00 ERA over her first 11.2 innings pitched. Peterson gave up nine hits and four walks while striking out three.

It has been nearly 16 seasons since the Bucs and the Colonels last faced off against each other.

Facing North Carolina Central
North Carolina Central dropped both of their contests to open the 2018 season as the Eagles fell in a doubleheader against host Elon on Saturday, February 10. The Eagles fell 5-4 in a 10 inning contest in the opener and then dropped a 5-4 decision in the nightcap to fall in both games against the Phoenix.

NCCU was picked fourth overall in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Southern Division. The Eagles received 72 points in the poll to place ninth overall among the 14 teams in the conference standings. N.C. Central did not have a player selected to the MEAC preseason All-Conference team.

Ava Dolan leads the Eagles with a .400 batting average over the opening doubleheader against the Phoenix. Dolan connected on a home run and added three RBI in the pair of losses. Kelsey Ray added a pair of hits and two RBI in the loss. Courtney Mirabella and Claire Eosso both posted complete game losses in the circle. Mirabella went 9.2 innings with eight strikeouts while posting a 2.17 ERA.

CSU swept all three contests against the Eagles to open head coach Shane Winkler's career with the Bucs in the 2009 season. The Bucs run-ruled N.C. Central in all three games, winning 10-0, 8-0, 11-3, over the three games.

Quick Hits

  • Charleston Southern's team leads the Big South Conference with a league-high .316 batting average over their first four games of the season.
  • Jade Gandara leads the Big South by a wide margin with a .769 batting average after going 10-for-13 over the opening weekend of the season.
  • Gandara also leads the conference in slugging percentage (1.000) and on-base percentage (.786)
  • Freshman shortstop Madison Koger leads all freshman in the conference over the weekend with a .455 batting average on the year.

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 exploded in its final game of the weekend as the Buccaneers erased a 3-0 deficit with 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning against Towson. The first eight batters in the CSU lineup all reached base in the inning, while Jade Gandara and Sarah Brown both connected on a pair of hits to push the Bucs on their way to the 15-4 five-inning victory. It marked the first time CSU had scored double-digit runs in an inning since the 2015 season when the Bucs scored 11 in the top of the first inning at Radford on March 29, 2015.

Big South Player of the Week
Junior outfielder Jade Gandara boasted the highest batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and tied for the most hits over the opening weekend of the 2018 season as the Hemet, Calif. native led the Bucs to a 3-1 record over the opening weekend. Gandara recorded multiple hits in all four contests on the season, raising her hitting streak to 10 consecutive games dating back to the end of the 2017 season. She opened the year with two of CSU's four hits in the Bucs' 1-0 win over North Dakota. In the second game of the doubleheader against UND, she drove in both of CSU's runs to go with her first home run of the season. Against N.C. A&T, Gandara led the team with three of CSU's seven hits, adding two runs and an RBI in the Bucs' 6-0 win over the Aggies. She followed up with a 3-for-4 performance (two hits in the 10-run first inning) at the plate with three RBI and two runs scored in CSU's 15-4 win over Towson.

Big South Freshman of the Week
Freshman right-hander Alyssa Heinrich paced CSU's pitching efforts over the opening weekend of the season as the freshman posted a team-high 10.0 innings pitched to go with a pair of wins and a 0.70 ERA. Heinrich allowed seven hits and one earned run while striking out nine on the opening weekend. She did not allow a walk and retired 18 consecutive batters (final 11 against N.C. A&T and first seven against Towson). Heinrich opened the year with a pair of two-hit innings against North Dakota on opening day. She followed up with five shutout innings to go with six strikeouts against N.C. A&T in picking up her first win of the season. She shut down the Tigers in the weekend finale allowing three hits and one run while striking out three over three innings in the win over Towson.

Freshman Standing Out at the Plate on Opening Weekend
Freshman shortstop Madison Koger and third baseman Sarah Brown both helped pace the CSU offense to a 3-1 record over the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational. Koger boasted the second-highest batting average in the conference over the opening weekend as the freshman from Fairfield, Ohio took over the starting shortstop position for the Bucs. Koger opened the season connected on the game-winning RBI to go with two hits in her debut as the Bucs topped UND, 1-0. She added a single in the second game against the Fighting Hawks. She added a 2-for-3 performance with two runs scored and an RBI double in CSU's 15-4 win over Towson. Brown

Walking with a Target on Her Back
One year after leading the NCAA in hit by pitches with 28, Caitlyn Emberson once again was a highly sought-after target over the opening weekend of the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational. Four pitches plunked Emberson over the weekend, twice against North Carolina A&T, on her way to receiving just six official at-bats over the four games. She was hit 11 times in her freshman season (2016) prior to her NCAA-leading pace last year. This year, with four more HBPs to her credit, Emberson boasts a .714 on-base percentage to go with a .333 batting average following the first four games of the season.

Opening Day Shutout
Holly Clark went the distance in an Opening Day two-hit shutout over North Dakota to pace the Bucs to an opening 3-1 record to start the 2018 season. Clark faced three batters over the minimum and didn't allow a runner after the third inning on her way to holding the Fighting Hawks off the scoreboard. It was her third collegiate shutout and CSU's first on opening day since Cheyenne Gandara downed UMBC, 8-0, on February 6 in a five-inning game. It was also CSU's first seven-inning complete game shutout to open the season since Dana Jacobs recorded a three-hit shutout at Gardner-Webb in 2003. Clark finished the weekend with a 1.56 ERA over nine innings' pitched, to go with three strikeouts in contests against North Dakota and Towson.

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