ANDERSON, S.C. – The No. 21 Anderson University softball team is slated to get back in action on Thursday, as the Trojans wrap up their longest homestand of the season by playing host to Peach Belt Conference-opponent Young Harris at Smethers Field. First-pitch versus the Mountain Lions is set for 1 p.m.
With a 15-1 record, Anderson is one win shy of setting a new school record for the best start in school history, as the 2013 edition of AU softball also started the campaign with an identical mark, which eclipsed the 2012 squad’s 15-2 record.
Senior shortstop Abby Child continues to lead the Trojans’ offense with a .500 batting average and ranks fourth in the league in that category. The versatile 5-foot-5 shortstop ranks in the top three in the SAC in nine offensive statistical categories. Hard-hitting first baseman Danielle Swygert is 13th in the league with her .438 batting average, ranks third with 21 hits along with Child, and is fifth in both runs scored (15) and RBI (15).
Freshman Courtney Czentnar continues her impressive debut at the plate, boasting a .395 batting average with three doubles and two home runs among her 15 hits on the season. The right-handed hitter has also driven in 10 runs. Second baseman Jessica Neidigh is riding a six-game hitting streak on the strength of a .385 batting average and continues to be a threat on the base paths, as the junior remains a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen bases, which is tied for tops in the SAC.
Sophomore Molly Child ranks 22nd in the SAC with her .380 batting average, while her six home runs lead the conference. She belted two homers in the Tuesday afternoon sweep of GRU Augusta, including a walk-off two-run shot in the opener. Freshman pitcher Augie Pena has three hits in eight at-bats, including a double, while Rebecca Martin rounds out the seven AU hitters who are batting above .300 on the season. Martin also blasted two home runs on Tuesday, including a solo shot that gave the Trojans the win in the nightcap.
As a team, the Trojans rank either first or second in the South Atlantic Conference in 10 offensive categories. AU batters have also been hit by errant pitches on 18 occasions this season, which ties Tusculum for tops in the league.
With a pair of wins on Tuesday, junior hurler Katelynn Howser improved to a league-best 7-0 on the season with a team-high 37 strikeouts in 40 innings of work. Freshman Lauren Rudesheim (6-0) has made nine appearances and has 28 strikeouts, while walking only six batters. Pena (3-1) remains second in the conference, averaging 9.40 strikeouts per contest, and has issued just three free passes in 22 1/3 innings.
The Mountain Lions
Young Harris was picked to finish 11th in the 2014 Peach Belt Conference preseason poll, according to a vote of the league's coaches. The Mountain Lions were predicted to finish ahead of UNC Pembroke after posting a 27-27 overall record a year ago, including a 6-16 mark and a 10th-place finish in the PBC.
First-year Head Coach Aileen Morales returned 14 players, including eight starters, from last year's team. Junior outfielders Sydnee Weaver and Paige Sexton returned after being two of the top three hitters for the Mountain Lions last season. Weaver batted .376 with a team-high 61 hits and 34 runs scored. Weaver was second on the team with 17 stolen bases while driving in 17 runs and collecting 12 extra-base hits. Sexton, who batted .321 a year ago, was the top base stealer for Young Harris with 21 stolen bases. She was second to Weaver in hits (50) and runs scored (31). Sexton drove in 18 runs with 11 extra-base hits.
Sophomore catcher/third baseman Sarah Magill is expected to anchor the Mountain Lion infield after moving to catcher at the beginning of last spring and starting 41 games at catcher. Magill batted .224 with nine extra-base hits and 12 RBI. First base is expected to rotate between three players - senior Dominique Sibley and sophomores Lindsay Tudor and Sarah Beth Marquis.
Sophomore Darby Stanford entered the season expected to lead the Young Harris pitchers after winning 13 games with a 2.74 ERA in 27 appearances a year ago. She tallied a team-high 14 complete games with one shutout. Stanford struck out 114 and walked 32 in 150.2 innings. Senior Katie-Jo Gentry tallied nine wins with a 4.61 ERA in 28 games, with one complete game. She struck out 71 in 129 innings of work.
Juniors Karli Timms and Brittany Henry, seniors Lisa Wilson and Brittany Olsen, and freshman Victoria Thomas complete the pitching staff. Henry went 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 14 appearances with three saves. Henry notched 33 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. Timms went 1-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 11 games with one complete game. Wilson, who battled an injury in 2013, made three appearances while Olsen recorded a save in eight games.
After throwing two shutouts, including a perfect game, Stanford was named the Peach Belt Conference Co-Softball Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 9. She went 2-0 with two complete games and a 0.78 ERA with 17 strikeouts and no walks at the UAH Charger Chillout in Huntsville, Ala. Stanford pitched the first-ever perfect game - 21 up, 21 down - and only second no-hitter since the Mountain Lions began playing four-year competition in 2011, as she struck out eight in a 4-0 win over Miles College. In that game she only allowed two fly outs and coaxed the opposition into 11 ground ball outs.
The Mountain Lions are 4-9 overall, but are 4-4 away from home, while dropping four of their last five and are coming off a two-game sweep at the hands of Reinhardt, 6-0 and 6-4, at home on Tuesday. The twin bill at Smethers Field is the first of three straight doubleheaders on the Mountain Lions’ slate versus South Atlantic teams over a four-day span.
The Series vs. Young Harris
The Trojans and Mountain Lions have met four times, with Young Harris holding a 3-1 advantage in the overall series. After the Trojans claimed a 14-0 shutout in the first-ever meeting in 2012, Young Harris has defeated AU on three straight occasions, including taking a doubleheader, 8-2 and 10-5, from the Trojans last season.
Molly Child led the Trojans at the plate last season versus the Mountain Lions, as the then-freshman went 4-for-6 a year ago, with a double and four RBI on the day. She also walked twice, while Swygert and Jansky each tallied a pair of singles.