ANDERSON, S.C. – Riding a league-best seven-game win streak, the Anderson University softball team goes on the road for a South Atlantic Conference twin bill at Carson-Newman on Wednesday. First-pitch at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex is set for 2 p.m.
On the strength of its win streak, Anderson (31-9, 9-5 SAC) continues to move up the league standings and is currently tied for third, alongside Lincoln Memorial, as the two squads are one game behind Lenoir-Rhyne and trail league-leading Wingate by two games.
The Trojans have won 10 of their last 12 games after pulling off a pair of one-run victories over Catawba last weekend. Anderson has posted a 14-4 mark away from home on the season and will play six of its final eight regular-season contests on the road. AU leads the South Atlantic Conference in runs scored, home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, while ranking second in total hits, doubles, walks, on-base percentage and batting average.
Four of the Trojan hitters rank among the league’s top 14 hitters, with sophomore Molly Child ranking third in the SAC with her .420 batting average. The center fielder is tied with her sister, Abby, for the league-lead in home runs, with 11 on the season and ranks second in the conference with her 44 runs scored and .740 slugging percentage. Child is third in both hits (55) and total bases (97) and ranks fourth in the SAC with her .490 on-base percentage. Molly Child has reached safely in 23 of the last 26 games and her grand slam in last Thursday’s nightcap was AU’s second in four contests. Junior Jessica Neidigh ranks sixth in the league and is second on the team with a .397 batting average and has reached base safely in six straight games and 20 of AU’s last 23 games. The Trojans’ leadoff batter is a perfect 20-of-20 in stolen bases on the season, which leads the league. Neidigh paces the SAC with 47 runs scored and is fourth in the SAC with 54 hits on the season.
First baseman Danielle Swygert, who enters Wednesday’s doubleheader tied for first place in Anderson’s record books with 54 career doubles, currently holds the top spot with 385 total bases and a .660 career slugging percentage. She is 11th in the league in hitting at .378, while reaching base safely in 11 of the last 12 contests and recorded the game-winning RBI in three of the Trojans’ last seven victories.
Fellow senior Abby Child is hitting .372 on the season and is tied with sister, Molly, for the league lead with 11 home runs on the season. Earlier this season, Abby Child took over the top spot in AU’s record books for career home runs and now has 43 career round-trippers. She ranks 14th in the league in hitting and leads the conference with 27 walks and ranks fifth in total bases (87), slugging percentage (.719) and on-base percentage (.487). The LaGrange, Ga. native is tops in AU’s record books in both RBI and walks.
Junior outfielder Rebecca Martin is hitting a career-high .345 and has belted a career-best seven home runs on the season, which places her eighth in the SAC and ranks third on the team with a .644 slugging percentage. Freshman outfielder Courtney Czentnar is hitting .333 on the season and is fourth on the squad with her .640 slugging percentage. Senior catcher Laura Jansky has six hits in the last three games and has driven in six runs, including multiple RBI in AU’s sweep of Catawba.
In the circle, freshman hurler Lauren Rudesheim (14-4) has won five consecutive decisions and is tied for sixth in the conference with her 14 victories. The right-hander has allowed just four earned runs in her last six starts and has lowered her ERA by nearly a full run during that span. Junior Katelynn Howser (11-4) leads the squad and ranks seventh in the league with her 1.98 ERA. Freshman Augie Pena (6-1) has earned wins in her last four decisions and has struck out 66 batters, including 12 Flying Fleet hitters last week. The right-hander has walked just 16 in 48 1/3 innings of work. Her 9.36 strikeouts per contest rank second in the league.
Carson-Newman (28-12, 7-7 SAC) was a preseason pick to finish tied for fourth with Catawba in the coaches’ preseason poll, with each garnering one first-place vote. The Eagles finished 30-18 overall last season and posted an 11-7 mark in conference play, while finishing tied for third in the SAC standings with Lenoir-Rhyne.
C-N lost All-American catcher Bri Shoemake and utility slugger Cassie Elliot, however, the Eagles returned 81 percent of their run production from last season. The conference's reigning Player of the Year, shortstop Brittany Hefner, who recorded a SAC and school-record 75 RBI a year ago, returned, along with outfielder Kelli Hensley, utility player Elayna Siebert, third baseman Sara Kelley and Braleigh Angel, who hit better than .300 last year. Two others, Caitlyn Lance and Jessica Morgan, returned after seasons where they hit better than .285. Hefner, Hensley and Siebert each a spot on the Preseason All-SAC First-Team.
Hensley and pitcher Kalyn Davis swept the SAC weekly honors in mid-February, after Hensley collected a four-hit day against Belmont Abbey in a sweep for the Eagles. She produced an inside-the-park home run in game two of that series, while Davis picked up a complete game shutout. Davis began her sophomore season with 16 consecutive innings of shutout ball and scattered four hits in the Eagles’ win over Belmont Abbey. Hensley earned the honor for a second time this season on March 11, after helping lead C-N to doubleheader sweeps of Concord and GRU Augusta with multiple hits in each game. Hensley had four RBI for the week, a double and a pair of triples.
Kelley earned league Pitcher of the Week accolades in late February, following a 5-1 week for C-N where the Eagles saw Kelley drive in a run in every contest and notch an extra base hit in every contest. The senior from Ooltewah, Tenn. hit .579 for the week with 11 hits and nine RBI. Kelley drove in three for the Eagles in C-N's 6-0 victory over Limestone to set up head coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield's 1,000th career win.
The Eagles, who are currently tied for sixth in the league standings, have won two of their last three, including a split with league-leading Wingate last weekend. Carson-Newman is an impressive 19-5 at “The Vick”, which is the nickname for the Eagles’ home field, after C-N renamed its softball complex the “Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex” in honor of 29-year head softball coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield in October. The SAC office announced in March that Kazee-Hollifield is slated to be inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame on June 5 at the conference’s annual meetings.
The Series vs. Carson-Newman
The Trojans and Eagles have met 31 times on the diamond, with Carson-Newman holding a decisive 26-5 advantage in the overall series. The Eagles claimed 24-of-25 meetings, including 19 straight, during the early 2000s, but Carson-Newman’s edge is only 4-3 since Anderson joined the South Atlantic Conference in 2011. The Trojans have won the last three meetings, including a sweep of last season’s double header and a 2-0 shutout victory in the 2012 South Atlantic Conference Tournament.
In last season’s Senior Day doubleheader, Abby Child was 4-for-7, with a walk-off three-run home run in the nightcap and a double. Molly Child was 3-for-6 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored, while Laura Jansky added two walks and a pair of singles. Swygert also notched two singles and an RBI.