ANDERSON, S.C. – The 21st-ranked Anderson University softball team returns to the diamond on Tuesday, as the Trojans welcome Peach Belt Conference-foe GRU Augusta to Smethers Field for a 2 p.m. doubleheader. The twin bill was originally slated for Feb. 15, but was moved back on the schedule due to inclement weather in the Upstate.
Anderson opened the season with 11 consecutive wins, marking the best start in school history by surpassing the 2010 Trojan squad’s seven consecutive victories. The season-opening win streak fell just shy of the school-record 15 consecutive victories earned by the 2012 team.
Senior shortstop Abby Child and freshman pitcher Lauren Rudesheim have continued their impressive starts after earning SAC Player of the Week honors, while senior first baseman Danielle Swygert is second on the team with a .465 batting average and is tied for second on the squad with four doubles.
Child leads the league with five home runs and ranks second in doubles (6), walks (13), on-base percentage (.615), RBI (20), slugging percentage (1.053) and runs scored (18). Her .500 batting average ranks fourth in the SAC. Swygert is ninth in the conference with her .465 batting average and is second overall with 20 hits on the season.
Newcomer Courtney Czentnar is batting .406 on the season and has eight RBI on the strength of a pair of home runs. The outfielder enters Tuesday’s doubleheader riding a five-game hitting streak. Junior Jessica Neidigh has hit safely in four straight contests and is hitting .378 on the season, with three doubles, seven RBI and is a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen bases, which is tops in the SAC. The left-handed leadoff hitter has also been hit by errant pitches (4) more than any other player in the conference.
Center fielder Molly Child has 16 hits in 44 at-bats, including four home runs and four doubles on the season. The sophomore also has drawn eight walks and ranks second on the squad with 17 RBI and a .727 slugging percentage. Junior outfielder Rebecca Martin has boosted her batting average to .313 on the season after going 4-for-9 at the plate in eight games last week, while ripping a pair of doubles and driving in two runs.
As a team, the Trojans rank either first or second in the South Atlantic Conference in nine offensive categories, while in the circle, Rudesheim (6-0) is tied for first in the conference with her six victories and added a save last week. The right-hander’s 0.61 ERA ranks third in the SAC and she has 26 strikeouts, while only walking five batters. Junior hurler Katelynn Howser is 5-0 on the season with 29 strikeouts in 31 innings of work, while freshman right-hander Augie Pena (2-1) has moved up to second in the conference, averaging 9.61 strikeouts per contest, and has issued just two free passes in 19 2/3 innings.
GRU Augusta, formerly Augusta State, was picked to finish 10th in the 2014 Peach Belt Conference preseason poll, according to a vote of the league's coaches. The Diamond Jaguars were predicted to finish ahead of Young Harris and UNC Pembroke after posting an 18-32 mark a year ago, including a 7-15 mark and a ninth-place finish in the PBC.
Head Coach Melissa Brocato, who is in her 16th season with the Jags, lost just two seniors from last year and returns two pitchers from a year ago. Junior Hannah Vaughn and sophomore Molly Walton headline the returners, as Walton recorded the second-highest batting average (.287) on the team last year and Vaughn led the Jags in runs scored (32) and doubles (12). Junior Brooke Stephens posted a .276 average and was second in slugging percentage (.371) and third in RBI (20).
Right-handed sophomore Paige Deschaine and left-handed sophomore Haley Birkle, who posted a team-best 2.45 ERA and 61 strikeouts a year ago, are back in the circle for GRU.
The Diamond Jags are 7-9 overall, but have won six of their last eight, including three-of-four at the Catawba Tournament last weekend in Salisbury, N.C. GRU Augusta split decisions on the opening day, defeating Davis & Elkins but falling to the host Indians. On Saturday, the Lady Jags took decisions from both Lenoir-Rhyne and Pfeiffer.
The Series vs. GRU Augusta
The Trojans and Lady Jaguars have met 21 times, with GRU Augusta holding a 15-6 advantage in the overall series. The two teams met once during the 1998 season, with GRU Augusta taking the win. The two teams squared off against each other on 18 occasions between 2001 and 2005, with the Lady Jags winning 14 of the meetings. Following the 2005 campaign, the series took a seven-year hiatus before resuming last season with AU sweeping the doubleheader, 5-0 and 9-2 in Augusta.
Neidigh was 5-for-8 with a pair of doubles versus the Lady Jags a year ago, while Abby Child was also 5-for-8 with two walks and five RBI in the doubleheader.