ANDERSON, S.C. – After scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth for its attempt at a comeback, the late-inning rally was cut down, as Anderson University baseball dropped a 7-5 decision to No. 3 ranked Lander in nonconference action Tuesday evening at Anderson Memorial Stadium.
The setback drops the Trojans to 16-25 on the season, as the nationally-ranked Bearcats improve to 32-6 for the season as they remain unbeaten against teams outside the Peach Belt Conference, improving to 14-0.
Despite the loss, senior right fielder Paul Como led the AU charge with his fourth home run of the season to go along with a single, two runs scored and two RBI. Fellow outfielder, senior Josh Hickman, also posted two hits for the evening, as he notched his sixth double of the year and drove in two runs. With the four hits between the two players, the Trojans outhit their in-state rival, 8-6.
Keeping the Lander hitters off-balanced was a quartet of Anderson pitchers as junior right-hander Spencer Earle earned the start and gave up just four hits with a strikeout. Sophomore reliever Mitchell Cooksey came in for Earle in the fifth inning and worked two innings and allowed one hit to go along with one strikeout.
A pair of right-handers in junior JT Trujillo and senior Will Walls completed the final three innings, as the tandem combined to give up one hit and struck out three Bearcats. Lander, which entered the game with a .310 average, was 6-for-30 (.200) for the game.
After the Bearcats crossed a run in the first inning to begin the game, the visitors struck again in the fourth when Erik Lunde doubled, plating two runs, and followed by a sacrifice fly by Patrick Grady, the Bearcats took a 4-0 advantage. Grady, who led the PBC in average, finished the contest 1-for-4 to go along with his third-inning RBI.
Anderson quickly responded in the bottom-half of the frame when junior shortstop Brett Cash singled into the right-center gap with two outs. Como followed Cash with his fourth blast of the season over the left-center field fence, putting the home side on the scoreboard for the first time. Later, Hickman drove in senior catcher Jonathan Zalud to bring the Trojans within one run at 4-3.
Despite closing the gap, AU was unable to keep small deficit as Lander took advantage of two walks and crossed the plate three times with just one hit for the inning. LU’s Colby Painter and Austin Dunn both posted sacrifice flies for the inning, handing the Bearcats a 7-3 lead.
Lander’s starter, left-hander Ryan Jones, completed seven innings for his seventh victory of the season. Jones struck out four Trojans and allowed three earned runs.
After LU’s reliever Tyler Broome tossed a perfect eighth inning, he ran into trouble in the bottom of the ninth when Anderson began its late rally. With AU loading the bases with a single, a Bearcat miscue and a walk, Hickman forced the inning’s second walk to bring home Como, as the Trojans began to chip into the Lander lead.
After sophomore second baseman Kyle Bailey scored pinch-runner Matthew Powell on the ensuing at-bat with a sacrifice fly, the Trojans were unable to manage another run, as AU dropped its ninth home game of the season.
Anderson returns to the diamond and to South Atlantic Conference play on Friday when it begins a three-game road series with last season’s SAC Tournament champion, Lincoln Memorial. First pitch on Friday is slated to begin at 4 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.