ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson University softball team opened South Atlantic Conference action by dropping a home doubleheader, 6-5 and 12-1, to preseason league favorite Lenoir-Rhyne Saturday afternoon at Smethers Field.
In a battle between the top two preseason picks in the league, Lenoir-Rhyne (20-5, 2-0 SAC) won its fifth straight contest and has claimed 10 of its last 12 decisions, while Anderson (20-4, 0-2 SAC) had its win streak halted at two.
“We cannot make any excuses,” said Anderson head coach Tommy Hewitt. “In the second game they beat us in every single category. [Lenoir-Rhyne] played like they were the number one team in the country.”
Lenoir-Rhyne 6, Anderson 5 (8 innings)
Sophomore second baseman Jessica Neidigh was 1-for-4 and also reached on an error, while belting her fifth home run of the season. Freshman Courtney Czentnar added a single and a walk in four trips to the plate, while junior third baseman Bri Cason recorded one of the Trojans’ six hits in the opener.
Junior Katelynn Howser (8-2) absorbed the loss after surrendering six runs (three earned) off 13 hits in 7 1/3 innings of work. The right-hander struck out five and walked just one.
Senior Jody Mizelle gave Lenoir-Rhyne a quick one-run lead by leading off the game with her third home run of the season. The Bears capitalized on a pair of singles and a walk to gain a 2-0 lead with another run in the top of the second inning.
L-R’s Haily Jarman’s fifth round-tripper of the season pushed the Bears’ lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning, before the Trojans battled back. Anderson, which recorded just two hits through the first four innings, got on the scoreboard when Neidigh blasted her homer over the fence in right-center.
The Trojan bats came alive in the sixth frame and AU also took advantage of three Lenoir-Rhyne errors to take a 5-3 lead with four unearned runs. Senior Abby Child began the inning as the first of 12 Trojan batters to come to the plate in the inning. The shortstop reached on an error, while senior Danielle Swygert followed by also reaching on an L-R miscue. Senior catcher Laura Jansky followed by pulling a single to left to load the bases with no outs.
Czentnar added an RBI-single to plate Abby Child with the inning’s first score, and after Rebecca Martin reached on a fielders’ choice, Cason laced an opposite-field single to right, bringing home Jansky with the tying run. With two outs, Neidigh reached on another L-R mistake, as Czentnar and Martin raced home with the go-ahead run and an insurance run.
But the Bears answered with two unearned runs of their own in the top of the seventh to knot the score at 5-5. After the Trojans went down in order in the bottom of the frame, Lenoir-Rhyne posted the eventual winning run with two outs in the top of the eighth inning on an earned run.
Lenoir-Rhyne 12, Anderson 1 (5 innings)
Neidigh was 2-for-3 in the nightcap, with a single and a double, while Czentnar added her third home run of the season in the fifth inning.
Freshman Lauren Rudesheim (9-3) took the loss after allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits over two innings. Freshman right-hander Augie Pena tossed three innings of relief and allowed four earned runs on five hits. She struck out five Bears and walked two.
Lenoir-Rhyne sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the first inning, as the Bears jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after a half-inning. The Trojans threatened in the bottom of the frame, but were unable to push a run across.
The Bears added two more runs in the second inning and put the game out of reach with four more runs in the fourth inning, as L-R pushed its advantage to 12-0.
Anderson avoided its first shutout loss of the season when Czentnar ripped her solo home run beyond the left-field fence.
The Trojans will look to get back in the win column when AU continues conference action on Wednesday at Mars Hill University. First-pitch versus the Lions is slated for 2 p.m.