ANDERSON, S.C. – As the month of March winds down, Anderson University baseball hits the road for a pair of nonconference matchups, beginning on Tuesday with a rematch against Conference Carolinas opponent North Greenville, followed by a trip south to Peach Belt Conference member USC Aiken on Wednesday. Both games this week are scheduled for 6 p.m.
Last week, AU finished 2-2 with a nonconference win over GRU Augusta, followed by a series setback to Tusculum, claiming its only win in the first game of a doubleheader in dramatic fashion, 13-12, in 10 innings. With the even week, the Trojans carry an 11-20 overall record into this week, along with an 8-10 mark in conference play.
Anderson enters the midweek contests as one of the best power hitting clubs in the South Atlantic Conference. The Trojans are one of three teams in the league with 20 or more home runs on the season, raking third with 24 for the year. With its power numbers continuing to grow, AU ranks third in RBI (166) and fifth in total hits (288).
A major contribution to those numbers has been hot-hitting sophomore Steven Cooper who has hit five home runs in Anderson’s last eight games. During the span, the sophomore is hitting .452 with a .553 on-base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage. At the plate, Cooper has tallied two doubles and has driven in 14 runs and scored 12 times. In the span of the last eight games, the Westminster, S.C. native has recorded five multi-hit games.
Senior outfielder Nathan Galliford has followed Cooper in the lineup the entire season, but leads the team and ranks second in the SAC in home runs with nine. After hitting a home run in every game against Coker this season, the senior has cooled off at the plate, sending out two home runs since the three-home run series to open March.
On the mound, midweek starter David Thompson has made the most of his five starts. The right-hander leads all starters with a 3.97 ERA while posting 33 strikeouts in 34 innings. Currently, Thompson ranks sixth in the SAC in strikeouts per game (8.74), trailing teammate Landon Beck, who leads the league at 12.31. Beck has 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings this season, which ranks second behind Mars Hill’s Dale Innes.
North Greenville is looking to get back on the winning track, as it enters the week dropping 11 of its last 12 ballgames as a 5-4 win over Conference Carolinas rival Pfeiffer on Saturday snapped a 10-game losing streak. Overall, the Crusaders are 5-22 for the year with a 2-7 mark in league action.
Two-way player Allen Staton continues to lead NGU at the plate and on the mound. Staton is hitting .400 for the year with 14 RBI and 11 runs scored. Staton is joined by Zac Davis as the only players on the team hitting over .300 for the season. For the year, the Crusaders have been outscored 232-115, as opponents are hitting .324 against their pitching staff.
Despite its record, right-hander Ryan Woodring holds a 2.18 ERA with six starts on the year. Woodring has completed 41.1 innings and has struck out 34 hitters. Staton closely follows with a 3.48 ERA and 29 strikeouts, earning the starting in three contests.
The Series vs. North Greenville
Earlier this season, Anderson posted over 20 runs for a game for the first time in three seasons, capturing a 22-12 win over North Greenville on Feb. 27. The Trojans pounded out 18 hits and scored 12 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning en route to the 10-run win. Currently, the Trojans have taken three-straight games from their in-state rival, as they swept the two-game season-long series a season ago.
USC Aiken enters Wednesday’s meeting winners of its last four, coming off a three-game sweep of North Georgia after defeating nonconference opponent Paine last Wednesday. For the year, the Pacers carry an impressive 21-7 overall mark and a 10-5 record in PBC play, while sitting in fourth place in the conference standings.
Outscoring their opponents 246-119, the Pacers have belted 28 home runs this season and currently lead the PBC in triples with 13. As a team, USC Aiken is hitting .340 with a .507 slugging percentage, as sophomore Tyler Moore is third in the conference in average (.418) and classmate Sean Miller closely follows with a .406 mark.
The Pacer pitching staff has held batters to a .234 batting average, while accumulating league-highs with 258 strikeouts and 9.26 strikeouts per game. Junior left-hander Danny Wissmann, who has started in seven games, leads the team with 53 punch outs in 37.2 innings with a .430 ERA. Wissmann saw action in two games against North Georgia last weekend, as he tallied 1.1 innings in both contests and struck out three Nighthawks.
The Series vs. USC Aiken
Anderson and USC Aiken have played at least one game every season for the past 15 years, as AU has not defeated its in-state rival since a 7-5 win on March 4, 2003. Last year, USC Aiken claimed a 10-6 win over the Trojans at Roberto Hernandez Stadium on March 14, 2013.