ANDERSON, S.C. – For the second time in three days, the Anderson University softball team will be squaring off against one of the hottest teams in the South Atlantic Conference when the Trojans welcome Tusculum to Smethers Field on Tuesday. First-pitch against the defending league champions is set for 2 p.m.
As the conference schedule nears the midway point, Anderson (25-9, 5-5 SAC) is tied with Carson-Newman for sixth in the league standings, one game behind both Catawba and Tusculum, who share fourth place, and two games behind Lenoir-Rhyne and Lincoln Memorial, who stand tied for second place.
The Trojans have three of the league’s top 10 hitters in its lineup, with sophomore Molly Child leading the way with her .423 batting average. The center fielder ranks third in the conference with her batting average. She saw her 16-game hitting streak halted on Sunday, but has hit safely in 17 of the last 18 contests. Junior Jessica Neidigh ranks fifth in the league and second on the team with a .397 batting average and has reached base safely in 14 of AU’s last 16 games. Senior shortstop Abby Child rounds out the trio with her .382 batting average, which is 10th in the SAC.
Molly Child also leads the squad with a .504 on-base percentage and hits (47), and is tied for second on the team with nine doubles and has blasted nine home runs, which is second in the conference behind just Abby Child’s league-leading 10 round-trippers. Neidigh has ripped 46 hits on the season and leads the SAC with 42 runs scored. The second baseman ranks in the league’s top 11 in seven additional offensive categories. Abby Child has reached base safely in six of the last eight games and leads the conference with her .765 slugging percentage. She ranks fourth in the SAC in runs scored (36) and fifth in on-base percentage (.500) and ninth in doubles (9) and hits, with 39.
Senior first baseman Danielle Swygert recorded the game-winning RBI in Sunday’s come-from-behind win over league-leading Wingate and ranks fourth on the team and 12th in the league with her .380 batting average, while ranking in the top-13 in the league in six additional offensive categories.
Freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .337 on the season and has reached base safely in eight of AU’s last 10 games. The Lawrenceville, Ga. native belted a two-run homer in the win past Wingate and is third on the squad with her .707 slugging percentage. Outfielder Rebecca Martin is hitting a career-best .324 on the season and has already recorded a career-best six home runs, which ties her for eighth in the SAC.
Freshman hurler Lauren Rudesheim has won three of her last four outings and is tied for fifth in the conference with her 12 victories, while junior Katelynn Howser (8-4) leads the squad and ranks seventh in the league with her 1.78 ERA. Rookie right-hander Augie Pena (5-1) has earned wins in her last three decisions and 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.
Tusculum (20-18, 6-4 SAC), the defending South Atlantic Conference regular-season champion, was a preseason pick to finish sixth in the South Atlantic Conference in a poll of the league's coaches after going 31-19 overall and 13-5 in the SAC a year ago. The Pioneers won their first SAC championship with a pair of walk-off wins past the Trojans on the final day of the 2013 regular season.
The Pioneers returned eight starters from last season’s squad and had two players on the preseason All-Conference team, as sophomore outfielder Miranda Beeler was a first-team honoree and junior first baseman Kaytlin Stroinski was a second-team pick.
Beeler, a sophomore from Knoxville, was a second-team All-SAC pick last year as she hit .310 with 27 runs scored. Beeler was credited with 13 bunt hits and stole 16 bases without being caught. She recorded the team's second-highest batting average in conference games at .389 and had a team-high 10 stolen bases in those 18 contests.
Stroinski, a junior from Howell, Michigan, was a second-team Daktronics All-Region honoree after she led the Pioneers in batting average (.336), runs scored (35), runs batted in (40), slugging percentage (.540), on-base percentage (.440) and walks (19) while sharing the team-lead with five home runs. Stroinski also added nine doubles and two triples and stole 11 bases last season.
The Pioneers have won four straight and six of their last seven outings after snapping a three-game skid two weeks ago. Tusculum opens a four-game road swing with Tuesday afternoon’s twin bill, and is 9-13 away from home on the season. The Pioneers are coming off back-to-back sweeps of conference opponents Brevard and Catawba that saw TC outscore the Tornados and Indians by a combined 21-8 margin.
The Series vs. Tusculum
The Trojans and Pioneers have met 13 times in a series that dates back to the 2004 season, with Tusculum owning a 9-4 advantage in the overall series. The two teams have traded regular-season sweeps since the Trojans joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2011 campaign, with the Pioneers taking the 2011 doubleheader. The Trojans answered by taking the 2012 twin bill, with the Pioneers claiming last season’s doubleheader.
The Pioneers won five of the first seven meetings from 2004-07, then the series lapsed for four years, before resuming during the 2011 campaign.
Last year’s doubleheader saw Swygert go 3-for-5, with three singles and a pair of walks. Bri Cason added two singles, while Charlotte Sieber notched two singles and a pair of RBI.