ANDERSON, S.C. – With a setback on Erskine on Tuesday, Anderson University baseball seeks a long-awaited victory at the end of the week, hosting nonconference opponent North Greenville on Thursday, followed by a South Atlantic Conference three-game series with league newcomer Coker, beginning on Friday at Anderson Memorial Stadium.
Despite dropping its last six contests, AU remains in sixth-place in the SAC standings with an even 3-3 record. With an uneven amount of teams in the conference this season, the Trojans stepped away from their conference schedule last weekend when they headed to Peach Belt Conference foe North Georgia. Despite out-hitting the Nighthawks for the series, Anderson dropped three straight by four runs or fewer in each game.
Currently, senior left fielder Nathan Galliford is tied for the conference lead for home runs with Newberry’s Eric Barbieri with four home runs for the year. Galliford also ranks second in RBI (16), third in walks (9) and seventh in slugging percentage (.596). Sophomore first baseman Steven Cooper currently leads the league with seven doubles, while being joined by middle infielder Kyle Bailey for seventh-place in hits (19).
On the mound, junior right-hander Landon Beck, who was named to the Preseason All-SAC Second Team prior to the start of the season, has posted 30 strikeouts in 18.0 innings. His 15.00 strikeouts per game average ranks first in the league as Wingate’s Ben Currie ranks second at 10.27 per game. Beck ranks eighth in the SAC with a 2.50 ERA while also earning a save against Carson-Newman in the opening game of the series.
With a game pending on Wednesday against SAC opponent Lenoir-Rhyne, North Greenville is 3-8 for the season, but winners of its last two games, snapping an eight-game losing streak last weekend with a 7-1 win over Toccoa Falls. The Crusaders made it two straight wins after defeating Brevard 5-1 on Tuesday.
Two-way player Allen Staton leads the NGU lineup, hitting .385 (15-for-39) while starting in all 11 games. Staton leads the team in hits (15), RBI (10) and slugging percentage (.615). While doing damage at the plate, Staton also has two starts on the hill, tossing 15.1 innings and recording a team-high 23 strikeouts. The Laurens, S.C. native has given up just four earned runs and 10 hits, holding batters to a .185 average.
Two other Crusaders join Staton hitting over .300, as redshirt junior Josh Sealey and redshirt sophomore Jessep Polk are hitting .375 and .341, respectively, as Polk leads NGU in doubles with six.
The Series vs. North Greenville
In both of the teams’ meeting a season ago, the Trojans claimed both contests with a 7-4 win in Tigerville, followed by a 10-1 victory at Anderson Memorial Stadium. Currently, Anderson is on a three-game winning streak over the Crusaders, having not posted a loss against its in-state rival since Feb. 14, 2012.
Entering the weekend on a six-game winning streak, Coker is 9-3 overall and carries a 4-2 league mark in its first season in the SAC after moving from Conference Carolinas. Last season, Coker finished the 2013 campaign with a 38-16 record and earned a trip to NCAA Division II College World Series. During their first season in the SAC, the Cobras dropped 2-of-3 to Wingate in their first SAC series in program history, before sweeping Mars Hill last weekend.
Despite tallying just one home run as a team this season, Coker’s offensive strength comes on the base paths, swiping 50 stolen bases, which leads the league. Newberry ranks second in the stolen base category, which just 23 swipes on the season. In the individual league statistics, the Cobras have the top-four positions in the stolen base category, as senior Fico Kondla is the only player with double digit swipes with 11.
Sophomore right-hander Matt Prosser leads the Coker pitching staff with a perfect 3-0 record with a 1.46 ERA. Prosser has tossed 24.2 innings and has struck out 22 batters, holding hitters to a .188 average.
The Series vs. Coker
Since 2007, Anderson has posted a 14-7 record in regular season matchups against the Cobras. Despite Anderson’s move to the SAC before the 2011 season, the teams continued the in-state rivalry with the Trojans holding a 5-4 record against Coker as nonconference opponents.