ANDERSON, S.C. – Playing its first nonconference game in over two weeks, Anderson University returns home for the first time since March 1 when it takes on Peach Belt Conference opponent GRU Augusta, looking to avenge an earlier season loss on Thursday. Then, on Friday, the Trojans begin a South Atlantic Conference series with Tusculum. The three-game set concludes on Saturday with the first game at 1 p.m.
After beginning the month of March with three straight wins, the Trojans are 1-5 since their win over Southern Wesleyan at Fluor Field on March 5. In the span, Anderson squared off with historical South Atlantic Conference powers Wingate and Catawba on the road, with a 10-9 win over the Bulldogs being AU’s lone win.
Showing his power at the plate over Anderson’s last four contests, sophomore first baseman Steven Cooper has knocked out three home runs in the span after beginning the first 23 games of the year without a home run. Cooper leads AU in average with a .356 mark with a team-high two triples and 10 doubles. Senior outfielder Nathan Galliford added to his home run total on Saturday with his eighth home run of the season. The senior is now in second place in the league in home runs, trailing Lincoln Memorial’s Josh Coker with 10.
With Galliford (27) and Cooper (26) ranking in the top-five in the league in runs batted in, senior outfielder Paul Como is also getting conference recognition by currently leading the SAC in doubles with 11.
Junior right-hander Landon Beck, who made the switch from the closer role to a weekend starter, recorded his third complete game of the season on Sunday against Catawba. Despite the complete game, Beck ended up with his third loss of the season, due a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh. The junior is now 2-3 for the year with 51 strikeouts in 36 innings while carrying the league’s highest strikeouts per game average of 12.75.
Since Anderson and GRU Augusta met on Feb. 18, the Jaguars suffered five straight setbacks, not earning a win since March 2 when they won both games of a home doubleheader over Lindenwood. The two wins began a four-game winning streak before falling in the second game of a three-game set to North Georgia. Currently, the Jags are on a three-game losing streak after being swept by Lander last weekend.
With the setbacks, GRU Augusta is 11-15 for the season and 3-9 in the Peach Belt Conference. With the 3-9 league record, the Jaguars are tied for 10th place, joining Francis Marion and Young Harris.
Senior Jeff Rice, who did not see the field in the first meeting between the teams, leads the team in average (.364) and slugging percentage (.515). Classmate JD Sabo, who has started in every game, is hitting .344 with a team-high 33 hits and one of the team’s four triples on the year.
On the mound, left-hander Frank Warren has started six games and holds a 3-1 record with a 2.57 ERA and 14 strikeouts. Reliever Clint Echols is tied for the team-lead in appearances with nine, while carrying a 4.67 ERA and a team-high 21 strikeouts.
The Series vs. GRU Augusta
GRU Augusta came away with a 4-3 win over Anderson on Feb. 18 at Lake Olmstead Field in the teams’ last meeting. The middle of Anderson’s order of Galliford, Brett Cash and Como all posted two hits for the afternoon, highlighted by Como’s first home run of the year.
Prior to the start of the 2014 campaign, Tusculum was projected to finish tied for second, as it joined Wingate for the runner-up position in the annual SAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released in late January. Currently, Tusculum is 17-10 for the year, but holds an even 7-7 mark in league action. Last weekend, the Pioneers claimed two-of-three from Newberry before adding a 14-2 win over North Greenville on Tuesday.
In Greeneville, TC is 15-2 record, while on the road; the Pioneers have struggled, accumulating a 2-8 mark. Despite the records, seven Tusculum hitters are hitting over .300 for the season, led by senior Taylor Foster with a .361 average and a .458 slugging percentage. Teammate Trey Drewery follows with a .340 batting average with a team-high 33 hits and 24 RBI.
On the hill, starter Michael Scott is a perfect 2-0 for the year in seven starts, posting a 2.70 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 40 innings of work. Right-handers Christian Raasch and TJ Miller are the other projected starters for this weekend as they combine for 51 strikeouts in 77.2 innings this season. Tusculum’s lone preseason all-conference honoree, John-Austin Shepar, leads the staff in appearances with 10 while adding 21 strikeouts and holding hitters to a .236 average.
The Series vs. Tusculum
Since joining the SAC before the 2011 season, the Trojans have managed one win over the Pioneers, coming in the 2012 season when AU took the second game of a three-game set, 14-2, on March 3. Since then, TC has recorded four straight over Anderson.