ANDERSON, S.C. – With February beginning on Saturday, so does the start of the 2014 baseball season as Anderson University looks to open the season on a high note when it welcomes Peach Belt Conference foe UNC Pembroke to Anderson Memorial Stadium for a weekend series beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m.
AU seeks a bounce back season after closing the 2013 campaign with a disappointing 17-33 record and tying for eighth in the final South Atlantic Conference standings. As the Trojans come off the down year, the coaches in the SAC projected Anderson to finish 10th in the league this season as Catawba, last season’s regular season SAC champion, was projected to claim the conference again this season.
Despite right-handed closer Landon Beck being the lone Trojan named to the preseason All-SAC teams, Anderson is excited about the potential of its offense, headlined by sophomore first-baseman Steven Cooper, who led the team last year in average (.309) and ranked second in total bases (75). AU will also seek leadership from its all-senior outfield, as Josh Hickman, Paul Como and Nathan Galliford return to the lineup. In 2013, Hickman led the team in hits (56) and stolen bases (7), while Como was second on the squad with a .461 slugging percentage and ranked first in doubles (12). Galliford tied for the team-high in home runs (5) and led the team in runs, tallying 33.
Four experienced starters look to make a major impact for the 2014 season, as senior Thomas Goodman, juniors Spencer Earle and JT Trujillo and sophomore David Thompson will see time as weekend starters. The quartet looks to erase a 2013 season where they combined for eight wins.
Last Friday, UNC Pembroke was slotted fifth in the annual Preseason PBC Coaches Poll, earning 91 points, 29 points behind conference favorite, USC Aiken. The Braves are coming off a 38-16 record a year ago, its ninth-straight season with 30 or more victories, where they were ranked as high as 10th in the country. This season, they enter the year ranked No. 16 nationally in the CollegeBaseballLineup.com Top 30.
Eight players, including senior infielders Daniel Fraga and Brett Huffman, return to one of the country’s most productive offensives that ranked in the top 25 in nine different categories, including ranking second in hits (667). Fraga and Huffman ranked third and fourth, respectively, on the team in hits, as Fraga totaled 74 and Huffman posted 73. Joining the duo in the lineup is junior third-baseman Jordan Edgerton who was named to the PBC all-conference team. Edgerton led the country in hits (94) a season ago to go along with a .592 slugging percentage and 28 extra base hits.
UNCP also returns nine pitchers to its staff, headlined by sophomore right-hander Logan Cook who tallied a 6-1 record with a 4.79 ERA a season ago. The Braves will look to fill a huge gap left by then-senior Ethan Carter who notched a 9-1 record and a 1.36 ERA in 10 starts in 2013.
Anderson and UNC Pembroke will kickoff its respective series schedule for the seventh straight season with the Braves capturing every series since 2008.