ANDERSON, S.C. – Currently riding a three-game win streak, the Anderson University softball team will square off against archrival Erskine on Thursday, as the Trojans will be playing their sixth game in a five day span. First-pitch against the Flying Fleet is slated for 2 p.m. at the Erskine College Softball Complex.
With at least a split in Thursday’s twin bill, Anderson would claim possession of the coveted Beville Cup for the fourth time in five years and sixth time in the last eight years.
Originally known as the Anderson/Erskine Cup, it is a competition between Erskine and Anderson’s athletics programs that was established in the fall of 2003 and is sponsored by ARAMARK in order to promote and enhance the rivalry between the Trojans and Flying Fleet, whose campuses are separated only by 20 miles.
The winner of the Beville Cup each year has the award presented each spring to its student-athletes and coaches by the losing athletics director, traditionally at their postseason banquet/awards night.
Anderson is 27-9 overall, including a 20-4 mark against nonconference opponents, and has won six of its last eight outings.
As a team, the Trojans lead the South Atlantic Conference in runs scored, home runs, RBI, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while ranking second in batting average, doubles and total bases.
The explosive Trojan offense has four of the league’s top nine hitters in its lineup, with sophomore Molly Child leading the way in second with her .436 batting average. The center fielder leads the league with her .744 slugging percentage, while ranking second in the conference with her 51 hits and nine home runs. She has hit safely in three straight games and 21 of the last 22 contests. Junior Jessica Neidigh ranks sixth in the league and second on the team with a .395 batting average and has reached base safely in 16 of AU’s last 19 games. The swift leadoff batter is a perfect 18-of-18 in stolen bases on the season, with the tally tying for tops in the league. Currently second on AU’s all-time career hits list, the Lawrenceville, Ga. native is third in the SAC with 49 hits on the season.
Senior first baseman Danielle Swygert enters Thursday’s contests ranked eighth in the league in hitting at .383 on the strength of an eight-game hitting streak. The veteran has recorded the game-winning RBI in each of the Trojans’ last three victories, including last Sunday’s come-from-behind win over league-leading Wingate. The left-hander belted Anderson’s second grand slam of the season to lift the Trojans to a 6-3 win past Tusculum on Tuesday and followed with a game-winning RBI-single in the nightcap.
Fellow senior shortstop Abby Child is hitting .382 on the season and leads the league with 10 home runs and 24 walks. She ranks second, just behind Molly Child, with her .736 slugging percentage and is in the top-12 in five additional offensive categories.
Junior outfielder Rebecca Martin is hitting a career-best .329 on the season and has a career-best six home runs, which ties her for ninth in the SAC. Freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .327 on the season and has reached base safely in 11 of AU’s last 14 games. The Lawrenceville, Ga. native belted a two-run homer in the win past Wingate and is third on the squad with her .673 slugging percentage.
In the circle, freshman hurler Lauren Rudesheim (13-4) has won four straight decisions and is tied for fourth the conference with her 13 victories, while junior Katelynn Howser (9-4) leads the squad and ranks sixth in the league with her 1.88 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 rank second in the league.
The Flying Fleet
Erskine (11-15, 4-4 CC), which lost seven seniors from last year’s squad that went 14-24-2 overall and 10-9-1 in Conference Carolinas, was a preseason pick to finish fifth in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Fleet captured the program's first conference tournament title two years ago, but slipped to seventh in the league’s regular-season standings last year and was eliminated from the conference tournament with two consecutive losses.
The Flying Fleet returned four starting infielders, including two seniors - at catcher, third base, shortstop and first base. Behind the plate, senior Ashlyn Hicks is a career .294 hitter and earned second-team all-conference accolades last year. Shortstop Whitney Brown is the other returning senior.
At third base, Erskine returns junior Ericka McCarson, who earned Conference Freshman of the Year honoree two seasons ago. She was second on the team last season in home runs and runs batted in, while sophomore Christine Long returns at first base.
The Flying Fleet has won three of its last outings and is coming off a sweep past Lander on Tuesday. Erskine opens a four-game homestand with Thursday afternoon’s twin bill, and has recorded identical 5-7 records both at home and away on the season, while going 1-1 at neutral sites.
The Series vs. Erskine
The Trojans and Flying Fleet have met 40 times in a series that dates back to the 1998 season, with Erskine holding a 24-16 advantage in the overall 16-year series. The two teams have traded three-game win streaks since the 2009 campaign, with Anderson currently owning the latest three-game streak. The Trojans swept last season’s doubleheader and topped the Flying Fleet in the nightcap of the 2012 matchup.
The Flying Fleet earned wins in 10 of the first 12 meetings from 1998-2001, while the Trojans have won seven of the last 11 matchups, including sweeping last year’s twin bill. Anderson outhit the Fleet, 16-7, and ripped a pair of home runs and three doubles to take the wins.
Neidigh was 5-for-6 with a double, four RBI and scored four times, while Swygert added three singles, a double, a walk and three RBI. Molly Child was 3-for-5 in the doubleheader, with three singles and two runs scored.