ANDERSON, S.C. – Looking to remain in the top-six in the South Atlantic Conference standings for its first ever berth in the Food Lion SAC Tournament, Anderson University hits the road for a key conference series with last year’s tournament champion, Lincoln Memorial, beginning with a single game on Friday at 4 p.m., following by a series-closing doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
Despite a nonconference setback to nationally-ranked Lander on Tuesday, AU remains in the tournament hunt, taking two-of-three from SAC rival Lenoir-Rhyne last weekend at Anderson Memorial Stadium. With the two triumphs, the Trojans are a half-game ahead of Newberry and Carson-Newman for fifth place in the SAC standings, as the top-six teams in the conference will advance to the SAC Tournament beginning on April 24.
Overall, Anderson enters the weekend with a 16-25 record, but is 4-2 in its last six contests. Despite the below .500 overall record, the Trojans are 11-12 within the league, as just four of the 11 SAC teams carry winning records inside the league.
In the last conference series against L-R, AU received two complete games win from starters Thomas Goodman and Landon Beck. Goodman shined in the first game on Saturday, tossing nine innings while striking out five Bears en route to his third victory of the season. Despite giving up a season-high 11 hits in the second game on Saturday, Beck bounced back and totaled five strikeouts for his fifth complete game of the year.
Offensively, the Trojans are led by sophomore first baseman Steven Cooper, who leads the team in average (.358), runs scored (37), hits (58), RBI (43) doubles (16) and triples (2). Cooper is also one of two players in the SAC with 100 or more total bases with 102 for the season.
Behind Cooper in the doubles category, senior outfielder Paul Como is currently on a seven-game hitting streak while driving in seven runs and scoring six times during the streak. For the year, Como has blasted four home runs, with three coming during his current hitting streak, while hitting .277 for the year.
Classmate and fellow outfielder Nathan Galliford has hit 12 homers on the season, as he is one of two players in the league with double figure home runs. The senior is hitting .299 for the campaign with 38 RBI (fourth in SAC) and 35 runs scored (sixth in SAC).
Sitting atop the conference standings, Lincoln Memorial enters the weekend with a 25-12-1 overall record with a 15-5 mark in the SAC. Most recently, the Railsplitters have won six or their last seven contests and ride a three-game winning streak into the weekend. This week, LMU picked up a pair of nonconference wins, beginnings with a 14-7 victory over Kentucky State on Tuesday, followed by a 13-1 seven-inning win over UVa-Wise on Wednesday.
Headlining the Railsplitter lineup has been senior two-way player Josh Coker who is currently tied with Galliford for the conference lead in home runs with 12 and is in second behind Cooper in RBI with 42. His 15 doubles and 100 total bases are second to Cooper, as he was named the SAC Player of the Week and NCBWA National Hitter of the Week for games played between March 3-9. That week, Coker hit .467 with five home runs in four games. During that same week, Coker also posted three saves in 4.2 innings pitched. Currently, Coker leads the SAC in saves with eight.
Junior right-hander Logan Sawyer has the team-lead in wins with six in eight starts, while he carries a 4.06 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. Fellow starter, right-hander Zac Butler, has a team-high 10 starts this season as he boasts a 5.06 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.
Since the move into the SAC before the 2011 season, Anderson has one series win over the Railsplitters coming in 2011 when AU took two-of-three at Anderson Memorial Stadium. Since then, Lincoln Memorial has taken two-of-three from the Trojans over the last two campaigns.