March for Babies on Saturday

Elizabeth Simonis cuddles her baby, Luke, who was born 15 weeks early, weighing just over 2 pounds. The Simonis family is the local 2011 March of Dimes Ambassador Family.

provided

Hunter Gilstrap literally saved the game for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Gilstrap, a former Clemson and College of Charleston star, made seven saves, including two on a penalty kick, as Pittsburgh and Charleston played to a scoreless draw in the home opener for the Battery on Saturday night before a crowd of 4,221 at Blackbaud Stadium.

With the draw, the Battery is 1-0-1 (4 points) on the young season and remained in first place in the USL Second Division. The Riverhounds are 0-0-2 (2 points), but have yet to score a goal in two games.

In March, Gilstrap had hopes of being in the net for the Charleston Battery. After bouncing around with Miami and Cleveland in the USL First Division for the last four seasons, Gilstrap had earned a tryout with Major League Soccer's Toronto FC.

"I was with them for most of the preseason and then they let me go in March and I was scrambling for a spot," said Gilstrap, who played for the Cougars during the 2005 season.

Gilstrap landed with the Battery during the Carolina Challenge Cup and faced Toronto FC in the opening game of the tournament.

"Hunter played very well for us," said Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser. "We thought about signing him, but we already had a couple of goalies in camp and things just didn't work out."

The Battery's back-up goalkeeper from last year, Keith Wiggans, was coming off of shoulder surgery and Real Salt Lake loaned Tim Melia to the Battery after the tournament.

"I wanted to play here, to be honest, this was my first choice," Gilstrap said. "I was with the College of Charleston for that one season and really loved the city. I had an offer from Pittsburgh, but was waiting to see what happened with the Battery."

Pittsburgh coach Justin Evans, who played for the Battery for three seasons (2002, 2004-05), jumped at the chance to sign Gilstrap.

"I don't know why (Anhaeuser) didn't sign Hunter," Evans said. "As soon as I found out (Gilstrap) was available I made him an offer and luckily for us, he signed. He's been fantastic. We've gotten points out of both games so far and it's in large part because of Hunter."

Gilstrap was busy throughout the game as the Battery pounded the Riverhounds with 14 shots on goal during the match.

"We had a lot of shots, but not a lot of quality scoring chances," Anhaeuser said. "We probably had two or three quality scoring chances and Hunter came up big each time. You've got to give him credit."

Gilstrap's two biggest saves came on Amaury Nunes' penalty kick in the 70th minute.

After Charleston striker Tom Heinemann was taken down inside the penalty box, the Battery was awarded a penalty kick.

But Gilstrap made a diving save to his right on Nunes' initial attempt and then stuffed the Battery striker on the rebound.

"I had a hunch he was going right and I guess right," Gilstrap said. "That's what goalkeeper is mainly about, guessing. That time I guessed right. (Nunes) got the rebound, I saw the ball right in front of me and I made myself as big as I could. Luckily I got a piece of the ball."

The Battery had another excellent opportunity in the 80th minute, but Gilstrap came up big again on Alioune Gaye's attempt inside the 18-yard box.

"Anytime I come back to Charleston it's a special game for me," Gilstrap said. "My family has a chance to come see me play and I love playing in this stadium."