ANDERSON, S.C. – After claiming three wins in its last four games, the Anderson University softball team wraps up its four-game South Atlantic Conference homestand on Wednesday, as the Trojans play host to Lincoln Memorial in a twin bill slated for 2 p.m. at Smethers Field.
After dropping its conference-opening doubleheader to preseason league favorite Lenoir-Rhyne nearly two weeks ago, Anderson earned a split at Mars Hill a week ago and swept Newberry last Saturday.
As a team, Anderson ranks third in the nation in home runs per game (1.57) and slugging percentage (.593) and the potent Trojan offense has three of the league’s top four hitters in its lineup, as sophomore Molly Child leads the team and ranks third in the conference with a .429 batting average on the strength of a 16-game hitting streak. Junior Jessica Neidigh and senior shortstop Abby Child are tied for fourth in the SAC, with each sporting a .416 batting average.
Neidigh is seventh in the nation, scoring 1.33 runs per game and Abby Child ranks 16th in NCAA D-II with her league-leading 10 home runs.
Molly Child is also tied for the team lead with nine doubles, along with her sister Abby and is second behind Abby in home runs with seven. The center fielder ranks fourth in the league with a .735 slugging percentage and hits (42), third in runs scored (35) and RBI (30). Neidigh has hit safely in 18 of the Trojans last 20 contests and is tied with Molly Child for the team-lead in hits, with 42 on the season. Abby Child enters the midweek twin bill riding a four-game hitting streak and leads the league with her .854 slugging percentage. She ranks third in runs scored (35) and on-base percentage (.527), fourth in hitting, sixth in doubles (9) and eighth in hits with 37.
Outfielder Rebecca Martin boasts a career-best .373 batting average and has a career-high six home runs on the season. The junior would rank 15th in the conference in hitting, but would need 16 additional at-bats to qualify for the SAC statistical rankings. Her six round-trippers are tied for fourth in the SAC. Senior Danielle Swygert is fifth on the team and ranks 16th in the league with her .371 batting average and is in the top-13 in five additional offensive categories. After becoming the first Anderson batter to blast three home runs in a doubleheader since 2011 in the sweep of Newberry, freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .359 on the season and is currently on an eight-game hitting streak. The Lawrenceville, Ga. native is fourth on the squad with her .718 slugging percentage.
In the circle, junior hurler Katelynn Howser (8-2) has a 1.84 ERA, which ranks seventh in the conference and has recorded 68 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings of work. She earned her first career save for the Black and Gold by tossing a perfect seventh inning in relief in Saturday’s second contest. Howser struck out two of the three Wolves she faced in the seventh inning.
Freshman Lauren Rudesheim (10-4) leads the pitching staff with 19 appearances and has tossed six complete games, including a pair of shutouts on the season. Fellow freshman Augie Pena has earned wins in each of her last two outings, while improving to 5-1 on the season in 15 appearances. She has 54 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings of work on the season and ranks second in the conference with her 9.15 strikeouts per contest, behind just sophomore hurler Carly Tysinger of league-leading Catawba.
The Lady ‘Splitters
Lincoln Memorial was a preseason pick to finish seventh in the South Atlantic Conference in a poll of the league's coaches after finishing eighth in last season’s league standings with a 30-22 overall record and a 7-11 mark in the SAC a year ago. The Lady Railsplitters compiled the program’s first 30-win season since 2008, while earning a spot in the Food Lion SAC Championship. Lincoln Memorial eliminated No.4 Carson-Newman from the tournament before being ousted by Wingate.
Senior outfielder Brianna Mulkey and junior Amanda Snow were named to the Preseason All-SAC Second Team. Mulkey, a two-time All-SAC honoree, led the Lady Railsplitters and ranked seventh in the South Atlantic Conference with a .375 batting average. The Kettering, Ohio native compiled 65 hits on the season, ranking fifth in the SAC in that category. Mulkey led the league in stolen bases for the third-straight season a year ago, with 34. She also posted a team-high 40 runs scored and a .392 on-base percentage.
Snow ranked second in the South Atlantic Conference in slugging percentage (.558) and third in on-base percentage (.462) last season, accumulating 44 hits, including seven doubles, 12 home runs, 37 RBI and 87 total bases. She also drew 44 walks, ranking second in the league in that category.
The Lady Railsplitters, who are currently 18-9 overall and 4-2 in the conference, enter Wednesday’s twin bill alone in fourth place in the conference standings, one game ahead of Anderson and Carson-Newman, who share the fifth spot in the league.
As a team LMU has recorded 32 doubles, 12 home runs and two triples. Behind the efforts of Mulkey, who is 15-of-18 on the base paths this season, and outfielder Emilee Solomon, who is a perfect 13-of-13, LMU is second in the SAC with 36 stolen bases.
Sophomore right-hander Samantha Smith leads the LMU pitching staff with an 11-3 record on the season and has three shutouts to her credit, while posting a 2.59 ERA.
The Lady Railsplitters are coming off a doubleheader split with league-newcomer Coker last Saturday, taking the opener 6-4, while the Cobras rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning of the nightcap to claim a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. LMU has split each of its last two conference doubleheaders and has won five of its last seven outings.
The Series vs. Lincoln Memorial
The Trojans and Lady Railsplitters have met 10 times in a series that dates back to the 2007 season, with the overall series deadlocked at five wins apiece. AU has won three of the last four after dropping the first doubleheader between the two programs with each as members of the South Atlantic Conference in 2011. The Trojans swept the first-ever twin bill in 2007, with LMU returning the favor during the 2008 campaign.
Anderson and the Lady Railsplitters officially split last year’s regular-season series in Harrogate, Tenn., with the Trojans claiming the opener, 7-6, and LMU earning a 5-3 victory in the nightcap. In the first matchups on March 30, the Lady Railsplitters took 8-3 and 5-3 wins, but the opener was played under protest. The replayed contest was completed on April 8 from the top of the third inning with catcher Laura Jansky at second base with two outs and the Trojans trailing 5-3. Anderson rallied for four runs in the final two innings to take the victory.
In the original twin bill, Neidigh was a perfect 9-for-9 at the plate, including two doubles and a triple. She officially finished the doubleheader 6-for-9 with two doubles, a triple, three runs scored and an RBI. Charlotte Sieber was 4-for-6 with the game-winning RBI and a run scored, while Jansky finished 3-for-6 with two RBI and a walk. Swygert added three hits, including a three-run home run in the sixth inning of the replayed contest. Bri Cason tallied a pair of singles, two walks and a run scored. Ironically, the makeup game also ended in a protest.