ANDERSON, S.C. – In what could be perhaps its biggest South Atlantic Conference series in the program’s history, Anderson University baseball has a chance to secure a spot into next week’s Food Lion SAC Tournament when it welcomes Newberry to Anderson Memorial Stadium for a three-game set beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m.
After AU captured two-of-three from then-league leader Lincoln Memorial last weekend in Harrogate, the Trojans put themselves in sixth place in the SAC standings, which would hand them the final spot in the annual postseason tournament.
Currently, Anderson carries an even 13-13 record, two games ahead of Carson-Newman (11-16), which sits in seventh-place. With AU holding the tiebreaker over the Eagles due to the series win on Feb. 15-16, the Trojans need a win and a C-N loss on Friday to earn a berth into the SAC Tournament.
As a team, AU leads the league in doubles with 85 and home runs with 41, as the Trojans are currently the only team in the SAC with more than 40 homers for the year. A major contribution to the home run total is senior outfielder Nathan Galliford who homered a league-high 15 times this season, which also leads the country. Following Galliford is sophomore Steven Cooper with eight and sophomore middle infielder Kyle Bailey, who ranks ninth in the league with five round-trippers.
Despite a 0-for-5 performance against nationally-ranked Lander on Wednesday, Cooper continues to put together one of the best seasons by a Trojan. Cooper leads the SAC in doubles (17), total bases (108) and runs batted in (46). Cooper also ranks second in hits (63) and ninth in slugging percentage (.597).
Anderson is hitting .298 as a team, as five Trojans who have played in 11 games or more are hitting above .300 on the year. Senior catcher Jonathan Zalud has recorded nine hits in his last four games and has overtaken Cooper for the team lead in average at .357.
On the mound, junior right-hander Landon Beck continues to impress with his 75 strikeouts (second in SAC) in 61.2 innings pitched. Beck has tossed five complete games, which leads the conference, while averaging 10.95 strikeouts per game.
Currently in the SAC standings, Newberry is a half-game ahead of the Trojans as it holds a 14-13 conference record with a 26-21 overall mark. The Wolves are currently on their second longest winning streak of the season of six straight wins, their longest since beginning the season 6-0. During the streak, NC swept Coker last weekend prior to back-to-back nonconference victories over Pfeiffer and USC Aiken.
The Wolves pace the conference in hits with 459 on the campaign as junior infielder Albert Baur leads the team with 64 hits, including 20 extra-base hits. Baur also leads Newberry in RBI with 43, while slugging .484 and scoring 30 runs. Fellow infielder, senior Ryan Cranmer is hitting .371 for the year with a team-high eight home runs with 36 RBI. Cranmer has scored 41 runs while driving in 36.
Defensively, Newberry’s pitching staff has held opponents to a .272 average while accumulating the conference’s second lowest ERA at 3.79. Left-hander Wesley Camp has led the NC pitching staff with 87.2 innings pitched and three complete games. Camp has posted 59 strikeouts with just 19 earned runs.
Last season, Anderson captured two-of-three from Newberry for the first time as conference rivals with back-to-back wins in the final two games of the three-game series. Prior to the series win, the Wolves grabbed two-of-three from the Trojans in each of the past two seasons.