ANDERSON, S.C. – After earning three wins during its four-game homestand, the Anderson University softball team visits league-leading Wingate for a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader, as the Trojans and Bulldogs are slated to square off Sunday at 1 p.m. at the WU Softball Complex.
Anderson (24-8, 4-4 SAC) is 11-3 on the road this season and has split two of its last three conference doubleheaders, sandwiching a sweep of Newberry between splits with Mars Hill and Lincoln Memorial.
As of the last NCAA statistics, Anderson ranks third in the nation in home runs per game (1.57) and slugging percentage (.593), with the Trojan offense seeing three of the league’s top five hitters in its lineup. Sophomore Molly Child leads the team and ranks third in the conference with a .442 batting average on the strength of a team-high 18-game hitting streak. Senior shortstop Abby Child is second on the team in hitting and fourth in the SAC with her .406 average, while junior Jessica Neidigh ranks fifth in the league and third on the team with a .404 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 also leads the squad with a .520 on-base percentage and is tied for the team lead with nine doubles, along with her sister Abby and is second behind Abby in home runs with nine after blasting two in the LMU doubleheader. The center fielder ranks second in the league with 46 hits and third with her .788 slugging percentage and runs scored (39). Neidigh has hit safely in 19 of the Trojans’ last 22 contests and is second on the squad with 44 hits on the season. The left-handed leadoff hitter leads the league with 42 runs scored and is eighth in both slugging percentage (.651) and total bases (71). Abby Child has reached base safely in five of the last six contests and boasts the league’s highest slugging percentage (.812), while recording multiple hits in three of the games during the five-game streak. She ranks fourth in the SAC in runs scored (35) and on-base percentage (.517), fourth in hitting, seventh in doubles (9) and eighth in hits with 39.
Senior first baseman Danielle Swygert is fourth on the team and ranks 14th in the league with her .372 batting average and ranks in the top-16 in the league in six additional offensive categories. Freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .353 on the season and has reached base safely in nine of AU’s last 10 games. The Lawrenceville, Ga. native is third on the squad with her .718 slugging percentage. Outfielder Rebecca Martin is hitting .333 on the season and has already notched a career-best six home runs, which ties her for sixth in the SAC.
Pitchers Lauren Rudesheim (11-4) and Katelynn Howser (8-3) each lead the Trojans with 20 appearances in the circle, with freshman hurler Augie Pena (5-1) notching 15 appearances. Rudesheim has earned wins in her last two decisions and her 11 victories on the season tie the rookie for seventh in the conference. Pena has earned wins in her last three decisions and she has struck out 54 batters, while walking just 16 in 41 1/3 innings of work. Her 9.15 strikeouts per contest ranks second in the league, behind just sophomore hurler Carly Tysinger of Catawba.
Wingate was a preseason pick to finish third in the South Atlantic Conference in a poll of the league's coaches, just behind the Trojans. Wingate finished seventh in last season’s league standings with a 33-22-1 overall record and an even 9-9 mark in the SAC a year ago. The Bulldogs earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season, making their first appearance since 2009. Five WU players were named Preseason All-SAC, with senior designated player Kayla Saliga getting a first-team nod and four other Bulldogs earning second team accolades.
Wingate closed last season on a strong note by winning 15 of its final 20 games, including three SAC Tournament wins and a victory in the NCAA Tournament. The two NCAA Tournament losses were both one-run losses to fourth-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State, with the final loss to the Pirates coming in nine innings. Anderson and Armstrong eventually met in the Southeast Super Regional, with AASU claiming a pair of wins in Savannah.
Senior second baseman Hayley Whitley, sophomore right-hander Stacey Houser, junior shortstop Alexis Burrell and sophomore catcher Taylor Laskey all earned second-team preseason All-SAC honors.
Saliga earned second-team All-SAC accolades in 2013 after leading the Bulldogs with a .346 batting average. In 25 starts, Saliga hit five homers and seven doubles, driving in 18 runs and scoring 22. Whitley finished third on the team with a .314 batting average last season. She had three homers and nine doubles, ranking second on the team with 35 RBI.
Houser earned second-team All-SAC honors in 2013, while also earning a spot on the All-SAC Tournament team. She went 24-14 during her first season at Wingate, piling up a league-best 275 innings pitched and 35 complete games. She ranked second in the league with 24 wins, while also ranking second with a 1.71 ERA and fourth with 144 strikeouts. She pitched every inning in Wingate's five SAC Tournament games, tossing 40 2/3 innings allowing just seven runs while setting a tournament record for innings pitched.
Burrell hit .307 during her sophomore season, leading the team with 10 homers, 11 doubles, 37 RBI and 99 total bases. She ranked third in the SAC in homers, fourth in total bases, fifth in slugging percentage, eighth in RBI and ninth in doubles. Laskey hit .272 during her freshman season, ranking second on the team with seven homers and nine doubles and third with 31 RBI. She had a .382 on-base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage. Laskey ranked 10th in the SAC in homers and 15th in RBI.
The Bulldogs, who are currently 25-11 overall and 7-1 in the conference, enter Saturday’s twin bill alone at the top of the crowded conference standings, one game ahead of second-place Catawba and two games ahead of Carson-Newman, Lenoir-Rhyne and Lincoln Memorial, who all three share the third spot in the league. The Trojans are in a three-way tie for sixth in the standings, alongside Newberry and Tusculum.
Sophomore infielder Mellena Helms is the reigning South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week. She earned the honor for the first time in her career last week after helping lead the Bulldogs to five victories. Helms piled up 15 hits in six games, hitting .556 while leading the Bulldogs to a 5-1 record. She had five doubles, a triple, eight RBI and eight runs scored while also drawing two walks, compiling a .586 on-base percentage to go along with an .815 slugging percentage. Helms had a hit in every game, while posting multiple hits in five of six contests.
Laskey was named the SAC Player of the Week on March 18, after helping lead lead the Bulldogs to a 4-0 record that included doubleheader sweeps over USC Aiken and defending SAC champion Tusculum. Laskey hit .600 (9-for-15) with three homers, two doubles, seven RBI and five runs scored, notching at least two hits in every game.
The Bulldogs have won two straight and 12 of their last 13 outings, and are coming off a sweep of 14th-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne last Thursday at the WU Softball Complex, en route to improving to 13-1 at home. Laskey had two homers Thursday afternoon, driving in eight of Wingate's 10 runs, as the Bulldogs won the first game 2-1, while rallying for an 8-6 win in game two. Houser earned both wins in the circle, tossing a complete game four-hitter in the opener and moved to 16-5 on the season with the win in game two, allowing one run on five hits in 5 2/3 relief innings, striking out one.
The Series vs. Wingate
The Trojans and Bulldogs have met 16 times in a series that dates back to the 1999 season, with Wingate owning a 13-3 advantage in the overall series. AU has won three of the last five, with the Bulldogs shutting out the Trojans, 4-0, in the opening round of the SAC Tournament a year ago.
The Bulldogs won the first 11 meetings between the two programs, including nine straight between 1999 and 2005. The series then took a five-year hiatus before the Trojans joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2011 campaign. Wingate swept the 2011 regular-season series, with Anderson returning the favor in 2012. The two teams split last season’s series, with WU taking the SAC tourney victory.
In the three meetings last season, Molly Child was 5-for-9 with a pair of doubles and scored three times, while Neidigh was 5-for-11 with a home run and a double and scored twice. Bri Cason added three singles and a walk, with Abby Child notching a single, double and five walks.