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Charleston Southern tops Longwood; doubleheader today at 1 p.m.

Longwood Softball

A crafty performance in the circle from Annah Junge, a nearly perfect defensive performance around the diamond, and a pair of homers from nine-hitter Ashlyn Cribb propelled Charleston Southern to a 4-1 win over Longwood in game one of a three-game Big South series Saturday at Lancer Field.

Junge (2-3) bent but didn’t break against a Longwood offense that entered the weekend ranked among the Big South’s top three in nearly every offensive category, scattering six hits and stranding five Lancers on base. The Lancers put runners in scoring position in each of their final two frames but could not push them across the plate as Junge held Longwood’s bats to a .182 (2-for-11) clip with runners on base for the game.

Charleston Southern’s defense was key to that effort, overcoming a lone error with multiple rally-killing defensive plays. Third baseman SeaEnna Satcher saved at least one run and likely another by herself in the bottom of the sixth, fielding back-to-back hard-hit groundballs with runners on first and second and stepping on third base both times to end the threat.

“Softball’s a game of inches, and we were on the wrong side of those inches,” Longwood head coach Dr. Megan Brown said. “Kasey Carr was six inches away from making it 4-3 in the seventh. A throw 12 inches over in the first inning doesn’t send in two runs. We were on the wrong side of those, but we’re going to come back tomorrow and do what we need to do to get them back in our favor.”

Those inches and Charleston Southern’s all-around performance allowed Junge to outduel Longwood ace Sydney Backstrom (16-11) whose loss was only her third in Big South play this season. The four-time Big South Pitcher of the Week held Charleston Southern to just two earned runs on five hits but found herself in an early hole when a pair of Longwood errors allowed two unearned runs to cross the plate in the top of the first.

Longwood never recovered from those early miscues and fell even further behind when Cribb blasted a pair of late-game solo homers in the fifth and seventh innings, belting both on consecutive swings. Those were the first two home runs of Cribb’s career and expanded Charleston Southern’s 2-1 lead to three runs by Longwood’s final turn at the plate.

The Lancers’ scoring rally came in the bottom of the third and culminated with a clutch two-out RBI single from leadoff batter Lauren Taylor. Taylor’s knock came on a 1-2 count and scored Leah Powell from third after Powell beat out a bunt to lead off the inning and stole both second and third to put herself in scoring position.

That would be the lone run the Lancers could muster off Junge, however, as the Buccaneer sophomore bounced back to retire the side in order in the fourth and strand three runners the rest of the way. Carr was inches away from a potential two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, but her shot with Mason Basdikis on base was just foul of the left field pole. Junge then got her to ground out to shortstop for Longwood’s second out in the seventh, and ended the game by getting Destiny Martinez to fly out to left field.

With Charleston Southern now on top by one game, the Lancers and Bucs will play for the three-game series in Sunday’s doubleheader, which is slated for 1 p.m.