RADFORD, Va. (www.BigSouthSports.com)
- Charleston Southern set the tone with a three-run first inning, and Morgan Dowdy
struck out six in a complete-game shutout as the Bucs earned a spot in the title game with an 8-0 win over No. 5 Gardner-Webb in five innings in game 14 of the 2012 Big South Softball Championship presented by Musco Sports Lighting and Brookwood Farms Barbeque Saturday evening at Radford Softball Field in Radford, Va.
Charleston Southern improves to 33-25 on the year, while Gardner-Webb ends its season at 28-28.
Third-seeded CSU (33-25) set a single-season program record for victories in the process, and will meet No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina Sunday at noon for an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The contest will be televised live on ESPNU.
The Bucs charged out to a 3-0 lead courtesy of a five-hit barrage in the first, and tacked on three more for a 6-0 advantage after four innings. Melissa Adams then sent everyone home early in the fifth, as the senior smoked a two-run double to deep left field to clinch the win.
Dowdy (20-12) yielded only two hits and no walks over her five frames, while fanning six to secure her 20th win of the season. Jessica Childers (8-14) took the loss for Gardner-Webb (28-28), as she failed to record an out while permitting three runs on three hits.
Gardner-Webb mounted a scoring threat against Dowdy in the first, as Samantha Meenaghan hit an infield single and moved up to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Jordyn Arrowood. Dowdy stayed strong, though, notching strikeouts of the Runnin' Bulldogs third and fourth-place hitters to escape the frame unscathed.
CSU came out swinging in its half of the first, forging a three-run rally on the strength of five base hits. Megan Lombard, Kristin Kelleher and Jessica Brock set the table for the middle of the order, as all three upperclassmen singled to load the bases against GWU starter Jessica Childers, who was removed before recording an out.
Cindy Boomhower came on to relieve Childers and got Jana Matthews to pop up for the first out of the inning, but could not get past Stephanie Sbardella and Linzy Rother. Sbardella lined a soft single to left for the first run of the game, before Rother plated two more for a 3-0 CSU advantage with a bullet of a double to the left-center field gap. The Bucs had a chance for more, but Boomhower recovered to limit the damage there.
Boomhower settled in to retire CSU in order in innings two and three, but the Bucs struck for three more tallies to forge a 6-0 lead in the fourth.
Rother started the charge with an infield single deep into the hole at shortstop, and was pinch run for with Lizzy Olmstead. Melanie Stickney then laid down a bunt single into the middle of the diamond, and an errant throw by Boomhower scored Olmstead all the way from first and allowed her to scoot up to third. The rally did not end there for CSU, as Adams drilled a RBI single through the right side of the infield and Brock found the middle with one of her own to double the Bucs cushion.
Rother led an 11-hit attack for CSU, going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. Adams finished 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored, while Brock also registered two base knocks while driving in a run and scoring another.
Charleston Southern captured its one and only Big South Tournament crown in the championship's inaugural season of 1988, defeating Coastal Carolina, 10-0, behind tourney MVP Dori Beach.
Dowdy picked up the win in the circle for the Bucs, while Childers suffered the loss for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
The Bucs will play No. 2 Coastal Carolina in Sunday's championship game at noon. CSU has taken three its four meetings with Coastal this season. First pitch is slated for 12 noon, with coverage airing live on ESPNU.
Charleston Southern Head Coach Shane Winkler
"I don't think it could have worked out any better for us. Losing the first game was really an eye opener for us. That was key. We talked about going into that game not falling into the trap of just wanting to win. Gardner-Webb is an extremely competitive team and had their backs against the wall and they came out and played well in game one. After that game, we changed our mindset, our mentality, and we came out with that fire and that need to be successful, and that need to win."
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Tom Cole
"It was a tough loss to end the tournament with because it in no way reflected the way we played for the entire tournament. I am proud of the girls and the way they played and it is just a tough way to end the season."