SB Preview: ESPN3 clash opens the weekend series at Gardner-Webb

SB Preview: ESPN3 clash opens the weekend series at Gardner-Webb

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern hits the road in Big South Conference play again this weekend as the Buccaneers head to the Brinkley Softball Stadium and Gardner-Webb University for a three-game series. First pitch in the opening doubleheader on Saturday afternoon is set for 2 p.m., while Sunday's series finale is set for a 2 p.m. first pitch.

The Bucs struggled early in the month of March but ended the second month of the season on a high note by winning three of their last four contests. CSU enters the weekend on a six-game winning streak following a home sweep over Presbyterian and wins over College of Charleston and Savannah State (twice).

Game Notes - CSU Softball at Gardner-Webb*

CSU's win over CofC snapped a streak that dated back to 2013, while the Bucs completed the series sweep over Savannah State with their doubleheader win at the Lady Tiger Softball Field on Thursday afternoon. Sarah Brown came up with key defensive plays on both days with throws to the plate to nab the game-tying runners against both the Cougars and the Tigers.

The Bucs have continued to utilize the long ball and their speed around the base paths in 2018 as they remain the only team in the NCAA in the top 15 in both home runs and stolen bases per game. CSU is 15th in home runs per game at (1.13) and 15th in steals per game at 2.10.

The Bucs' schedule remains tough the rest of the way as home contests against Furman, Campbell, and Radford sandwich a three-game road trip to Liberty and a contest against No. 12 South Carolina.

The first game of Saturday's doubleheader will be streamed live via ESPN3. 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

Scouting Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb has been the surprise of the Big South Conference this season with the Runnin' Bulldogs boasting a 20-17 overall record on the season. GWU has hit a bit of a skid lately though as they enter the weekend on a five-game losing streak after getting swept by Furman in a midweek doubleheader and this past weekend against Liberty. Prior to the losing skid, GWU had won six in a row including a sweep over Presbyterian.

After dropping their first three games to open the season, Gardner-Webb responded by winning nine of 10. The Runnin' Bulldogs have been paced by the big bats of Andria Booth and Katie Prebble this season on their way to posting a 17-9 record at Brinkley Stadium. Among their key wins in 2018 includes a 6-5 victory over North Carolina State, as well as a 12-9 victory over Campbell.

The Runnin' Bulldogs enter the weekend as one of four Big South teams with over 20 wins on the season. GWU is 20-17 on the year and 4-5 in conference play on the season. Gardner-Webb was selected eighth in the conference's preseason poll after receiving 15 points. GWU went 16-34 last season with an 8-13 mark in conference play.

Booth and Prebble sit among the conference leaders in multiple categories on the season. Booth paces the Big South with a .460 batting average and 57 hits in 2018. She also leads the Runnin' Bulldogs with 15 stolen bases. Prebble leads the conference with 17 home runs and 52 RBI to go with a .429 batting average on the year.

Ashley Wark leads the Runnin' Bulldogs' pitching staff on the year with a 12-10 record and team-high 20 starts. She has 16 complete games and 22 appearances to go with 119.2 innings. She has been the workhorse of the staff with 44 strikeouts. Laken Myers (17) and Sam Harrell (16) also have double-digit appearances in the circle this season.

The Bucs and the Runnin' Bulldogs have faced each other in the field since the 2002 season when the CSU took on Gardner-Webb at the Georgia State Tournament. The Bucs won the inaugural matchup, 9-3. Overall, the series is in favor of the Runnin' Bulldogs with GWU leading 23-19. CSU has fought its way back into the series with eight wins in the last 11 contests, including taking four of the last five on the road in Boiling Springs, N.C.

On-Base Streak
Caitlyn Emberson has been nigh unstoppable over the last month and a half as the junior utility player boasts one of the more impressive on-base streaks of the season this year. Emberson topped her previous career high by reaching base in 20 consecutive games with the streak dating back to… Her previous high of 19 games came back in the … CSU's leadoff batter for the majority of 2018, Emberson has been hit by … pitches and drawn … walks to boast a … on-base percentage.

Homering Twice in the Same Day
The Bucs have had two players post two home runs on the same day, but in different games already in the 2018 season. Jade Gandara (twice) and Taylor Gleason (twice) have both connected on a pair of home runs on the same day heading into the weekend with Gleason connecting against Valparaiso and Eastern Kentucky on February 16, and on March 24 against Longwood in both ends of the doubleheader. Gandara first achieved the mark on February 24 against George Mason and Hartford, and then followed up with homers against Wright State and Norfolk State on March 9.

Taylor Gleason – February 16 vs. Valparaiso (solo HR in 7th), vs. Eastern Kentucky (Grand Slam in 1st)

Jade Gandara – February 24 vs. George Mason (Two-run HR in 5th), vs. Hartford (solo HR in 5th)

Jade Gandara – March 9 vs. Wright State (Grand Slam in 2nd), vs. Norfolk State (solo HR in 1st, Three-run HR in 3rd)

Taylor Gleason – March 24 vs. Longwood (Two-run HR in 2nd), vs. Longwood (Two-run HR in 2nd)

Major Attraction
Despite her attempts to get out of the way, pitches continue to find Caitlyn Emberson this season as the junior utility player sits among the national leaders in hit by pitches for the second consecutive season. Emberson paced the NCAA in 2017 with 28 hit by pitches on the season. This year, with 19 more to her credit, Emberson has been plunked 58 times in her career. The Taft, Calif. native has been hit by six pitches in the last six games.

Freshmen Phenom
Alyssa Heinrich has paced the Bucs in the circle in 2018 with a number of key appearances in clutch situations for the Bucs. The freshman right-hander from Mt. Pleasant, S.C. is second on the team in appearances (22), wins (seven), and innings pitched (62.0). She has already earned Big South Freshman and Pitcher of the Week honors in 2018 and her last start in conference play resulted in a one-hit shutout against Presbyterian and picked up her second save of the season against Savannah State. The Wando high school alum was named All-Lowcountry co-player of the year as well as being named to the All-State and All-Region teams.

Blink Once and They Are Gone
Meghan Gagliano and Kendall Anderson are the speedy duo that paces the Big South Conference in stolen bases this season. The pair of freshmen has made their mark this season already with Gagliano sitting atop the leaderboard in both stolen bases (21) and stolen base attempts (26). Anderson is second in both categories with 19 steals in 21 attempts on the year. The duo also reprises their role in the conference-only standings with Gagliano (8) and Anderson (6) on top of the category leaderboard. Gagliano already has a trio of multi-steal games this season including three stolen bases on March 31 in the first game of the doubleheader against Presbyterian. Anderson added a two-steal performance on March 3 at Tennessee.

Approaching the Team Stolen Base Record
Charleston Southern is rapidly approaching the team single-season stolen base record as the Bucs continue to put together one of the best seasons in school history on the base paths. CSU enters the weekend with 86 stolen bases in 2018. The total is already the second-most in CSU history behind only the 1993 season. That year, paced by Stephanie Schwartz's 23 stolen bases, the Bucs recorded 92 thefts. CSU has recorded 69 (2016) and 62 (2017) stolen bases in each of the past two seasons, but with four players over double-digits in the stolen base category, CSU could approach a top 10 season in Big South history this year. The 10th-most stolen bases in conference history were recorded by Winthrop in 1996 with the Eagles swiping 108 that season.

CSU Players with Double-Digit Steals
21 - Meghan Gagliano
19 - Kendall Anderson
12 - Annie Bakenhus
11 - Sarah Brown

Approaching the Home Run Record
Paced by the power bats of Jade Gandara and Mallory Kasinger, CSU has already put together a top five performance in Buccaneer history at the plate this season. The Bucs enter the weekend leading the Big South with … home runs thanks in part to the double-digit efforts by the CSU sluggers. Gandara paces the Bucs with 11 on the year, while Kasinger is second with 10. Freshmen Sarah Brown (7) and Nina Del Rio (6) also are among the team leaders while eight different players have connected on home runs this year. Three of the most successful home run seasons in CSU history have occurred in the last three years with a school-record 65 home runs occurring last season.

CSU Single Season Home Run Records
65 – 2017
62 – 2015
49 – 2013
46 - 2018
45 – 2016
45 – 2010
45 - 2017

Nearing Single Season Wins in Winkler Era
With the Bucs 41 games into the 2018 season and still having 15 scheduled through the remainder of the regular season, CSU could be on its way to posting its sixth 30-plus win season and fourth in the Winkler coaching era. The Bucs enter the weekend with 24 wins and a six-game winning streak that includes CSU's first win over College of Charleston since 2013. The Bucs set the single-season wins mark in 2012 with 33 victories. They added 31 wins in 2015 and 30 in 2010.

Pilgrim's Progress
Junior right-hander Arizona Pilgrim has been among the conference's best this season while pacing the Buccaneers in multiple categories. Pilgrim leads the Bucs in appearances (23), wins (8), complete games (4), innings pitched (95.1), strikeouts (69), and strikeouts per seven innings (5.07). Pilgrim boasts 26 career wins and 96 appearances to sit among the CSU all-time leaders in the categories. The Taft, Calif. native has 14 complete games to her credit, including four this season. She has been CSU's go-to ace this season with appearances in seven of the nine Big South games this season with decisions in five of them.

Shakin' Baken-hus
Since joining the roster this fall, junior centerfield Annie Bakenhus has been a mainstay in the CSU lineup with the Bethune-Cookman transfer sitting among both the Big South and the conference leaders in hitting. Bakenhus is second on the team with a … batting average to go with … runs scored and … stolen bases. Lining up in both the no. 9 spot in the lineup, as well as the leadoff position, Bakenhus has added a pair of home runs on the year while starting in all 40 games in centerfield. She has also played a nearly perfect outfield with just one error on the year while adding a pair of assists.

It's Summer Time – Pinch-Hitting Role
Summer Moore has swung her way into key situations for the Bucs this season with the sophomore utility player appearing in a pinch-hitting role in 29 games in the 2018 season. Moore is hitting .300 on the season with nine hits and a team-high six RBI to help highlight CSU's efforts off the bench this season. The Corona, Calif. native hit .308 last season in a similar role last season. Among her key hits this season include an RBI single in the win over N.C. Central on February 18, and a two-run base hit in the 6-1 win over Presbyterian on March 30.

What Can Brown Do For You?
Freshman third baseman Sarah Brown has made her impact both on the field and at the plate in 2018 with the Sacramento, Calif. native sitting among the CSU leaders in both home runs and assists. Brown is one of five players to start all 40 games in 2018 and one of two to start in the same position (Annie Bakenhus – centerfield). Brown has showcased a blend of power and speed at the heart of the CSU lineup sitting third on the team in home runs (7) while also sitting fourth with 11 stolen bases. Brown also paces the Bucs with 95 assists on the season with a highlight reel in nearly every game on the field. This includes a catch, spin, and throw on a play at the plate that secured CSU's win over College of Charleston this past Tuesday. She followed up with another throw at the plate to secure CSU's win over Savannah State on Thursday afternoon.

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