ANDERSON, S.C. – After taking four days off for Spring Break, Anderson University baseball returns to action and to its South Atlantic Conference slate when it hits the road to Catawba for a three-game series beginning on Friday at 6 p.m. The two-day set will wrap up with a doubleheader on Saturday scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
After picking a nonconference win over Southern Wesleyan at Fluor Field to begin last week, AU dropped two-of-three to conference rival Wingate, claiming the final game on Sunday, 10-9. With the 1-2 record against the Bulldogs, the Trojans move to 9-15 overall and 7-5 in conference play, which slots them in a three-way tie for second place, joining Newberry and this weekend’s opponent, Catawba, as all three teams have five losses.
Sophomore first baseman Steven Cooper led the Anderson offense this past weekend, hitting .455 with an .818 slugging percentage and highlighted the weekend with a first inning home run on Sunday, his first of the season. Cooper also drove in six RBI and scored three runs. Senior outfielder Josh Hickman, who got off to a slow start to the season, totaled five hits last weekend, hitting .417 with two runs scored.
On the mound, senior Thomas Goodman posted the best outing in a start, tossing 5.2 innings and striking out three batters. Reliever Evan Jordan added his first save of the season on Sunday, completing three innings and matching Goodman’s total number of punchouts with three.
Catawba entered the season as the conference’s preseason favorite, earning 97 points and nine first-place votes in the annual SAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Indians finished 36-16 a season ago with a 21-6 mark in league play, but finished 1-2 in the conference tournament, which ended their season.
In its most recent conference series, Catawba dropped two-of-three to defending SAC Tournament champions, Lincoln Memorial. Despite the two setbacks, the Indians have responded with two-straight wins, capped off by a 10-9 victory over nationally-ranked Mount Olive on Tuesday. With the wins, Catawba holds even records of 11-11 overall and 5-5 in SAC play.
Despite ranking sixth in the SAC in batting average (.281), the Indians lead the league in home runs with 17, one more than second place Lincoln Memorial. Leading the way is TJ Wharton with five home runs on the season, tying for third in the conference, while teammate Paul Kronenfeld is tied for seventh with three.
Defensively, Catawba ranks second in the SAC for the fewest amount of errors with 28 for the year, one behind Coker with 27. Its .964 fielder percentage ties Carson-Newman for the highest in the league. On the mound, senior Ryan McClintock ranks fifth nationally in saves with five.
Anderson has dropped six straight games to Catawba, as the Trojans are searching for their first win over the Indians since claiming two-of-three in the first series as conference opponents in 2011. That season, AU won both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, 3-2, to claim the league set.