Lady Chants upset in finals, Lady Bucs steal NCAA bid

ccusoft-28pitchThe Coastal Carolina softball team dropped a 3-1 decision to Charleston Southern on Sunday afternoon in the Big South Championship game at Coastal Carolina Softball Stadium.

The loss ended a season-best seven-game winning streak for the Chanticleers, who fell to 41-15 with the setback. Seventh-seeded Charleston Southern improved to 27-31-1 with their fourth consecutive victory and earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA regionals. Coastal is eligible for an at-large spot. The NCAA pairings will be announced Sunday night.

Charleston Southern freshman pitcher Cheyenne Gandara limited Coastal to just three hits in notching her third win of the tournament and earned tournament MVP honors. The Chanticleers, though, had plenty of chances to score against the Bucs as Gandara walked five, but they left 10 runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

Both teams missed out on opportunities in each of the first three innings. Coastal starter Ashley Bagwell stranded two Buccaneers in the first before the Chants put runners on first and second in the bottom of the inning when Bri Chiusano walked and Morgan Noad was hit by a pitch. However, Gandara got a foulout and inning-ending forceout.

In the bottom of the second, Brooke Donovan led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice by Sara Rasley. Maicie Hahn then walked and both runners moved up to second and third on a double steal. Jessie Winans walked to load the bases, but a strikeout by Gandara and a popout off the bat of Quolas ended that threat.

Charleston Southern got a runner to third with one out in the top of the third on an error, a wild pitch and a groundout. However, Bagwell was able to induce two groundouts to escape.

In the bottom of the inning, Noad hit a leadoff double to right-center, but Gandara followed with three straight outs.

The Buccaneers then broke the scoreless tie in the fourth. A leadoff bloop single to left by Stevi Johnson and a sacrifice was followed by a single to center and when Donovan’s throw home was off the mark, Johnson came home with the first run. Ari Tedesco then added an RBI single on a low liner off the glove of Hahn at second to make it 2-0.

Coastal answered with its only run of the game in the bottom of the inning without a hit. Rasley walked and then beat the throw to second on a sacrifice by Hahn. Winans’ sacrifice moved the runners to second and third and, two batters later, Quolas grounded one to the third. Natalie Yonan was unable to come up with the ball and Rasley scored.

Charleston Southern, though, quickly made it a two-run lead in the fifth as Quolas entered in relief to start the inning. Jessica Brock hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a sacrifice and scored on a second wild pitch.

The Chants last best chance at rally came in the bottom of the fifth as Amanda Daneker singled to left, the fifth straight CCU leadoff batter to reach in the game. However, Hayes Holdsworth tracked down a flyball off the bat of Kory Hayden heading toward the left-field line for the first out. Donovan then walked to put runners at first and second, but Gandara got a strikeout and a popout to end that inning.

She then worked perfect innings in the sixth and seventh – the only two 1-2-3 innings by any pitcher in the game – to seal the win for Charleston Southern. Gandara struck out five in addition to the five walks and allowed her fewest hits in a complete game this season.

Bagwell suffered the loss despite pitching well. She allowed two runs – just one of them earned – struck out one and walked one.

Quolas, Noad and Rasley earned All-Tournament Team honors for the Chanticleers. It is Noad’s second straight selection.

Bagwell, Donovan, Winans, Courtney Howell, Beth Kassuhn and Desiree Zaragoza make up Coastal’s six-member senior class that won two Big South regular-season titles, one tournament championship and recorded 147 victories.

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