Lady Buccaneers headed to NCAA Tournament

  • Sunday, May 11, 2014

Charleston Southern’s softball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time after a perfect run through the Big South Tournament.

The Lady Buccaneers knocked off top-seeded Coastal Carolina 3-1 on Sunday in Conway, using a dominant pitching performance by Cheyenne Gandara and clutch hitting by Georgi DeLio and Ari Tedesco to defeat the Chanticleers.

“We talked about getting here from day one in practice,” CSU coach Shane Winkler said. “We’ve been envisioning dog-piling there at the pitcher’s circle since August. We knew we could accomplish this and we brought the energy and intensity that it took to win a championship.”

The seventh-seeded Lady Buccaneers, who came into the game as the lowest seed to make the conference championship game, never trailed during their tournament run and built a 2-0 lead with Stevi Johnson and Brittany McPherson crossing the plate in the top of the fourth.

Jessica Brock scored an insurance run in the top of the fifth on a wild pitch to provide Gandara (11-11) all the support she needed in the contest in closing out her third win of the weekend and Charleston Southern softball’s second Big South Conference Tournament Championship.

“I’m so proud of these kids; absolutely proud of these kids,” Winkler said. “They fought for four straight games and they believed. That was the key and we did exactly what we came here to do.”

The Lady Buccaneers landed in the Knoxville, Tenn. Regional, hosted by No. 10 national seed Tennessee.

CSU (27-31-1) takes on Tennessee (42-10) in the opener on May 16. Lipscomb (39-13) and Virginia Tech (35-21) are also in the regional.

Regional winners will advance to the Super Regionals May 22-25.

“We went into this weekend knowing that it doesn’t matter who we play against,” Winkler said. “We have to step up and take control of the things that we can control, which is ourselves… We’re going to take the same focus that it’s not the best team that’s going to win. It’s the team that plays the best.”

Gandara, the 2014 Big South Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player, hurled a complete game three-hitter for the Buccaneers against Coastal, overcoming an early bout of wildness.

Gandara allowed a single unearned run, striking out five and walking five in the contest in picking up her third win of the weekend. The freshman right-hander from Hemet, Calif., was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the tournament down the stretch in picking up two wins over Longwood and a save against Presbyterian on the weekend.

“Cheyenne was outstanding all weekend long,” Winkler said of his freshman ace. “She was the best pitcher here and we relied on her a ton.

Joining Gandara on the All-Tournament team included senior first baseman Stephanie Sbardella, freshman shortstop Stephanie Bergmann and freshman centerfielder Amanda Matsumoto.

“I’m so proud of what every member of this team brought to the table this weekend,” Winkler had to say about the overall effort every player on the CSU roster brought to the table during the tournament run. “Every player on the roster was brought here with one goal in mind during the whole recruiting process, and that’s to win championships and get our program elevated to where we’re competing nationally.”

Oregon (49-7) was named the No. 1 seed in the national tournament.

• Former Stratford standout Erin Schattle will also be participating in the NCAA Tournament.

Schattle, a senior catcher/outfielder for the USC Upstate Spartans, will be in the Tuscaloosa, Ala. Regional.

The Lady Spartans are 45-7 on the season and Schattle has been an integral part of their success.

She’s played in 49 games and has a .320 batting average. She has nine doubles, three home runs and 32 RBIs.

USC Upstate is in a regional with No. 2 national seed Alabama (45-11), South Alabama (40-12) and SIU Edwardsville (30-21).

• Another former Stratford standout will be a part of the NCAA Tournament in a different capacity.

Laura Trout is an assistant coach for the USC Lady Gamecocks (35-20), who will be in the Tallahassee Regional with host Florida State (50-6), South Florida (41-15) and Fordham (36-18).

Trout was part of the NCAA tournament as a player while at Georgia.

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