ANDERSON, S.C. –Stringing together its second longest winning streak of the season, Anderson University baseball returns home and back to South Atlantic Conference play this weekend with a three-game series with Lenoir-Rhyne. The series is scheduled to begin on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
Beginning with an 8-7 win over SAC rival Brevard last weekend, followed by victories over nonconference opponents Erskine (9-6) and North Greenville (7-4, 11 innings), AU is on a three-game winning streak and enters the weekend with a 14-23 overall record and a 9-11 mark in conference play. With their conference record, the Trojans sit the on the cusp on a conference tournament berth, as they are in seventh place, trying to find a spot in the six-team field.
The Anderson offense has shined this season, as it leads the conference in total bases (523) and second in home runs (32). With two home runs in his last four games, senior Nathan Galliford is tied for the conference lead with 11, as just two players in SAC currently have double figure home runs. Galliford also ranks second in the SAC in walks (24) and fourth in RBI (36).
Leading the team in RBI is sophomore first baseman Steven Cooper with 39, as he is slotted second in the conference. Cooper’s 54 hits ranks first in the SAC, while his 93 total bases and 14 doubles ranks second. Senior right fielder Paul Como is just behind Cooper in doubles, ranking fourth in the league with 13.
On the mound, junior right-hander Landon Beck posted two strikeouts in an inning of work at North Greenville, giving him the league lead in strikeouts with 63 for the year. In his 49.2 innings, Beck is averaging a conference-high 11.42 strikeouts per game.
Under first-year head coach Tom Fleenor, Lenoir-Rhyne has struggled this season, entering the weekend with a 10-26 overall record and a 6-16 conference mark, which slots the Bears in 11th place in the SAC standings. Despite the record, L-R is coming off a 6-4 win over King in nonconference action on Tuesday, as it has taken two of its last three contests.
Lenoir-Rhyne carries two players with 20 or more RBI on the year, as senior Brandon Walker and junior two-way player Ivan Vieitez lead the team in the category with 24 and 22, respectively. For the campaign, Vieitez is hitting a team-high .398 for the season with eight doubles and 17 runs scored. Walker, who is projected to start in centerfield, has eight extra-base hits for the year, including a team-high two home runs.
Vieitez has also shined on the hill for the Bears as he is coming off a week where he was named the SAC Pitcher of the Week after tossing a four-hit shutout over Newberry on March 29. The right-hander has tossed 34.1 innings this year with 28 strikeouts and a 3.67 ERA. Senior right-hander Eric Ryan and junior right-hander Jeremy Coburn are projected to be the other starters for the weekend as the tandem has combined for 68 strikeouts in 93.2 innings.
After the Trojans were swept last season in Hickory, Anderson looks for its first series win against the Bears since joining the SAC in 2011. AU has just two wins against its Tar Heel State rival with its last win coming on March 17, 2012, as the Trojans squeaked out a 9-8 win in the series finale.