Charleston Southern's Zack Hagaman hit a three-run home run to break a 7-7 tie in the eighth inning and reliever Stephen Leopard fired four shutout innings in relief to carry the Bucs to a key 13-7 win in the series finale at Radford on Sunday afternoon.
The win moves to the Bucs to 10-11 in Big South play and 21-29 overall, while Radford falls to 28-22 and 13-8 in league play.
The formula becomes simple for the Bucs. CSU needs one win next weekend against Coastal Carolina to qualify for the Big South Tournament. The Bucs are currently tied with Presbyterian for second in the South Division and own the tiebreaker with the Blue Hose.
CSU rallied from a 6-3 deficit, pounding out 18 hits on a cold, blustery afternoon to get their biggest Big South win – and series win – of the season. The Bucs also spoiled Radford's conference title hopes.
Bucs' head coach Stuart Lake liked the toughness his team showed in rough conditions with their backs against the wall.
"It was a really tough weekend to play, but I liked the way our guys competed the entire series," Lake said following Sunday's three-hour and 10-minute win. "We were on the road against a quality team and our guys stayed determined to win the series. Today was an odd weather day. It was cold and windy, but our guys battled with a lot of ground balls and line drives, and didn't (strikeout) much."
Hagaman's blast came in maybe the key moment of the Bucs' season. The junior ripped his sixth home run of the season to right off of Highlanders' reliever James Woods to break a 7-7 tie in the eighth and send the Bucs to the win. CSU scored the final seven runs in the game after falling behind 6-3 in the opening two innings.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys battled," Lake added. "That was a really big blow from Hagaman. We didn't give in from top-to-bottom. Cody Austin also gave us a big hit that I thought put the game away."
CSU's bullpen gave the Bucs their best effort of the conference season. Matt Witt came on in the second to pitch out of a jam and Leopard (WP, 2-3) worked 4.1 shutout innings and struck out four as the Bucs offense caught fire late. It was the first win for the CSU bullpen in league play this season.
"Leopard was outstanding," Lake added. "Witt came in very early and stopped the bleeding, then (Leopard) came in and gave us that chance to win. It felt like everything was going against us until he settled things down. He made a number of big pitches to get us through it."
CSU struck first, scoring three runs in the top of what was a wild and high-scoring first inning.
Centerfielder Bobby Ison singled and scored, while Chase Shelton added an RBI single to give the Bucs a brief lead. CSU took advantage of a Radford error and a wild pitch to keep the inning rolling. Drew Woodall added an RBI groundout for the Bucs in the winning.
Radford answered back with five in the bottom half of the first as the Highlanders' first five batters reached. Alexander Lee had a two-run double to highlight the inning and the Bucs committed two errors to make things tough on themselves.
RU built its lead to 6-3 on a walk and an RBI single from Lee.
The Bucs bounced back in the third to tie the game at 6-6, stringing together three straight singles to get the rally started. Woodall added a second RBI on an infield single to score Alex Tomasovich, and Jaren Sustar added a two-run single for CSU's fifth hit of the inning to tie the game.
CSU tied the game at 7-7 in the seventh as Hagaman singled and scored on a wild pitch to knot the game, setting up his eighth innings heroics.
Ison and John Faircloth pieced together one-out singles to set the stage for Hagman in the eighth. The junior followed by ripping the ninth pitch of the at-bat out to right field to put the Bucs up 10-7.
CSU added three runs in the ninth to build the lead to 13-7 on a two-run single by Cody Austin and an RBI single from Faircloth to seal the win.
The first six Bucs in the order had multiple its in the win, including three each from Shelton, Woodall, and Hagaman.
Hagaman finished 3-for-5 with four runs scored and four RBIs. Woodall was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Lee led Radford with three RBIs following a 2-for-5 day.
CSU returns to action with four home games to wrap up the regular season. The Bucs host The Citadel at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, before opening a three-game series with Coastal Carolina on Thursday at 6 p.m. at CSU Ballpark.