ANDERSON, S.C. – After dropping back-to-back decisions for the first time since last year’s NCAA Southeast Super Regional at Armstrong Atlantic State, the 14th-ranked Anderson University softball team will look to get back in the win column when the Trojans visit Mars Hill on Wednesday. First-pitch versus the Lions is slated for 2 p.m.
Both Anderson (20-6, 0-2 SAC) and Mars Hill (12-8, 0-2 SAC) suffered a pair of losses in their respective conference-openers last Saturday, with the Trojans falling to preseason league-favorite Lenoir-Rhyne and MHU dropping back-to back decisions at Catawba. AU has dropped four of its last six, while the Lions have suffered setbacks in three of their last four outings after posting a four-game win streak.
Junior Jessica Neidigh enters the midweek doubleheader on a nine-game hitting streak and has recorded multiple hits in eight of those nine contests. The native of Lawrenceville, Ga. has jumped into second in the league in hitting with her .443 batting average, and also ranks second with 39 hits on the year. She has yet to be thrown out on the base paths, going 14-for-14 in stolen bases. Sophomore center fielder Molly Child is second on the team and sixth in the conference with her .410 batting average on the strength of a team-best 12-game hitting streak. She is second in the SAC with six home runs and ranks third in RBI (26), hits (34) and runs scored (29).
Senior Abby Child is hitting .395 on the season and leads the league with eight home runs. The hard-hitting shortstop also leads the SAC in slugging percentage (.829) and RBI (36), while ranking third in runs scored (29) and fifth in on-base percentage (.510). Senior Danielle Swygert is fourth on the team and ranks 13th in the league with her .383 batting average and is in the top-10 in four additional offensive categories.
Junior Rebecca Martin continues to post career numbers at the plate, boasting a .372 batting average and has a career-high five home runs on the season. The outfielder would rank 16th in the conference, but does not own enough at-bats to qualify. Freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .359 and is a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases.
In the circle, junior hurler Katelynn Howser (8-2) has a 1.52 ERA, which ranks eighth in the conference and has recorded 62 strikeouts in 69 innings of work. Freshman Lauren Rudesheim (9-3) leads the pitching staff with 17 appearances and has tossed a pair of shutouts on the season, while earning a save in the 7-5 win over Georgia College on Feb. 22. The right-hander has recorded 42 strikeouts in 61 innings of work. Newcomer Augie Pena is 3-1 on the season in 13 appearances and ranks second in the conference with her 10.50 strikeouts per game average. She struck out five of the 16 batters she faced in last Saturday’s nightcap.
Mars Hill was a preseason pick to finish eighth in the South Atlantic Conference in a poll of the league's coaches after tying for the eighth spot in last season’s league standings. The Lions posted a 26-16 overall record and a 10-8 mark in the SAC a year ago.
Junior Robyn Stanek was named to the Preseason All-Conference First Team at third base after earning a spot on the 2013 All-SAC First Team. Last season, Stanek started all 42 games and led the Lions with a .372 batting average, .419 on base percentage, 11 doubles, five home runs and 41 RBI. Her .372 batting average was fourth-best in the league.
Returning first baseman Jamie Hockaday earned a spot on last year’s Food Lion South Atlantic Conference All-Tournament Team. Her two-run homer provided both runs in the Lions’ upset victory over the tourney’s top-seeded Tusculum Pioneers. Hockaday batted .273 with a .385 on-base percentage in four games in the SAC Softball Championship, homering, driving two runs and drawing a pair of walks as Mars Hill eliminated Tusculum and the second-seeded Trojans before being eliminated by Wingate.
Hockaday currently ranks third in the league with her .441 batting average and her .547 on-base percentage is second in the conference.
The Lions are 12-8 overall and, like the Trojans, are looking for their first conference win of the season after suffering a pair of shutouts at Catawba three days ago. Wednesday’s twin bill opens a four-game homestand for the Lions, who are an undefeated 6-0 at home on the season.
The Series vs. Mars Hill
The Trojans and Lions have squared off 16 times since the 2006 season, with seven of the meetings occurring since Anderson joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2011 campaign. Mars Hill leads the all-time series, 10-6, while the Trojans have won four of the seven league matchups. The Lions claimed seven consecutive victories in the series from 2007-10, with AU sweeping last year’s regular-season doubleheader. Mars Hill offset the losses by eliminating the Trojans in the SAC Tournament with a narrow 4-3 win.
In the three meetings last season, Swygert was 7-for-9 with a pair of doubles, three RBI and scored three times, while Charlotte Sieber was 3-for-4, with a solo home run and scored twice, while driving in three runs. Molly Child added five hits and a pair of RBI in 10 at-bats.