ANDERSON, S.C. – As the Anderson University softball team battles for the top spot in the South Atlantic Conference regular-season race, the Trojans will play host to Brevard for a league doubleheader on Wednesday at Smethers Field. First-pitch for the contest, which was originally slated to be played at Brevard, is set for 3 p.m.
The Trojans, who have already clinched at least the sixth seed in next week’s Food SAC Tournament, have climbed into a tie for first place in the conference standings on the strength of their 11-game win streak. Anderson (35-9, 13-5 SAC) has pulled even with 19th-ranked and preseason league favorite Lenoir-Rhyne, while winning 14 of its last 16 contests. Lenoir-Rhyne and Anderson are each one game ahead of Wingate and Tusculum, which share the second spot in the standings. Entering the week, the Pioneers are the second-hottest squad in the SAC after claiming their eighth consecutive victory with a road sweep past Coker last Saturday.
Anderson enters its final twin bill at Smethers Field with an opportunity to build on its school-record 19 home wins on the season and sits two victories away from last season’s school-record for wins (37) in a regular season. AU leads the South Atlantic Conference in runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while ranking second in total hits and walks.
Senior first baseman Danielle Swygert’s seventh home run of the season in last Saturday’s second game gave the Trojans’ their 64th round-tripper of the campaign, which ranks second all-time in the South Atlantic Conference record books.
Four of the Trojan hitters continue to rank among the league’s top 11 hitters, with sophomore Molly Child reaching safely in 34 of the last 36 games and is tops in the SAC with 12 home runs, while ranking second in the conference in runs scored (50), hits (62) and slugging percentage (.740). The hard-hitting left-hander is third in both total bases (108) and batting average (.425), while ranking fourth in the SAC with 44 RBI.
Junior Jessica Neidigh ranks eighth in the league and is second on the team with a .389 batting average. She has hit safely in 22 of AU’s last 27 contests and leads the conference with 52 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.
Abby Child is hitting .388 on the season, which ranks ninth in the conference and trails sister, Molly, for the league lead in home runs by one. Abby leads the league with 28 walks and ranks third in RBI (49), runs scored (47) and slugging percentage (.724) and fifth in total bases (97) and on-base percentage (.491).
Swygert, who has reached base safely in 15 of the last 19 contests, is 11th in the league with her .385 batting average and .654 slugging percentage, while standing eighth with a .456 on-base percentage. She is seventh with 12 doubles and fourth with 44 RBI.
Outfielder Rebecca Martin, who has hit safely in nine of the last 10 contests, has boosted her career-high batting average by 46 percentage points over the last two weeks. The junior has belted a career-high seven home runs on the season, which ties her for ninth in the SAC. The Anderson, S.C. native also ranks 12th in the SAC with her .629 slugging percentage. Freshman Courtney Czentnar is the sixth player on AU’s roster hitting above .300, as she boasts a .331 batting average on the season. The right fielder is fifth in the league with 10 homers and ranks eighth with 37 RBI after driving in seven runs in AU’s last four games.
In the circle, junior hurler Katelynn Howser went 3-0 with two complete-game wins and a six-inning win in relief last week to improve to 14-4 on the season. Howser tossed 17 innings and scattered six hits without allowing a run in the three-game stint. The right-hander won her sixth consecutive decision with an 8-0 win past Queens in Saturday’s opener and recorded 10 strikeouts while issuing just two walks on the week. Howser leads the team and ranks sixth in the conference with her 1.70 ERA on the season, while her 14 victories also rank sixth in the SAC. She has recorded 93 strikeouts, which is sixth in the SAC.
Freshman Lauren Rudesheim (14-4) leads the pitching staff with 18 starts on the season and nine complete games to her credit. Both Howser and Rudesheim each have posted three shutouts. Freshman right-hander Augie Pena (7-1) has recorded 69 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings and has issued just 16 free passes on the season.
Brevard (19-22, 8-8 SAC) was a preseason pick to finish 12th in the SAC coaches’ preseason poll, after finishing last season with an overall 15-31 record and a 3-15 mark in conference play.
Sophomore Jamie Hrobak was named SAC Pitcher of the Week in mid-February after helping lead the Tornados to a 4-0 start on the season. The right-hander did not allow an earned run in 14 innings, finishing 2-0 with 21 strikeouts while issuing only three walks. The Mill Spring, N.C. native tossed a pair of complete games, going five innings in game one of Brevard’s sweep of Johnson C. Smith, and then seven innings in a 3-2 Tornado win over Lees-McRae. In total, the sophomore allowed only six hits in her three appearances that week.
The Tornados, who are currently seventh in the league standings, are riding a six-game win streak and have won seven of their last eight after snapping a five-game skid earlier this month. Brevard is coming off a pair of one-run wins, 1-0 and 6-5, past then league-leading Wingate last Saturday.
The Series vs. Brevard
The Trojans and Tornados have met just eight times on the diamond, with all but two of the meetings occurring as South Atlantic Conference rivals. Anderson has won five of the last six matchups, including sweeps of the last two regular-season doubleheaders.