Tornados face Anderson in SAC Baseball Championship tonight

BREVARD, N.C. – The Brevard College baseball team will play its first postseason contest in three years on Thursday evening, traveling to nearby Forest City, North Carolina to take on Anderson in the opening round of the 2015 South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship.

The Tornados and Trojans will tussle in a pressure-packed win-or-go-home contest on Thursday. The winner will advance to a traditional six-team double elimination bracket that begins on Friday at noon. Their opponent will depend on the results of the day’s earlier game; should fifth-seeded Wingate defeat No. 8 Carson-Newman, Brevard or Anderson will advance to face top seed Catawba, while if the Eagles win the Tornados or Trojans will play No. 2 Newberry.

Brevard and Anderson are familiar foes, playing their conference series just three weeks ago at Anderson’s Memorial Stadium. The Tornados dominated the first game and clung to a one-run lead in the second before a walk-off two-run home run by Anderson’s Steven Cooper evened the series. The Trojans took a convincing 6-0 win in Saturday’s rubber game.

The Tornados will throw right-hander Hunter Donaldson, who learned yesterday of his inclusion on the all-South Atlantic Conference honorable mention team. Donaldson had his best outing to date in Friday’s first game against the Trojans, allowing seven hits and two runs, one of which was unearned, in his eight innings on the mound.

The only Anderson player to find significant success against Donaldson was catcher LJ Newman, who was 2-for-4 with a strikeout in the teams’ April 3 meeting and hit .545 (6-for-11) with two RBI a .727 slugging percentage in the series overall. Newman is the catalyst in Anderson’s offense and leads the team in every major offensive category, including batting a team-high .376 with 17 doubles and nine home runs on the season.

Donaldson has been at his best against left-handed batters this season, with southpaws hitting just .130 against him in 46 trips to the plate on the year. Anderson’s three left-handers managed one hit in 11 at-bats in the teams’ first meeting.

Anderson will likely send Nick Contafio to the mound on Thursday, a redshirt freshman who came to the Trojans from Waxhaw, North Carolina by way of Charleston Southern University. Contafio made his fourth start of the season against the Tornados and shut the Brevard offense down, scattering three hits across seven scoreless innings while compiling nine strikeouts.

Contafio will look to silence the potent combination of left-handed batters Hunter Donaldson and John Slade, who have two of the top three batting averages on the team this season. Four of Slade’s six hits in the Anderson series went for extra bases, giving him a .462 batting average and slugging percentage of .846. He scored twice and batted in four runs, all of which came during Friday’s second game.

Despite Slade’s offensive heroics, however, freshman outfielder Christian Dix was the offensive star of the series, going 5-for-10 with three walks. His two triples in Friday’s first game set a Brevard NCAA-era record and contributed greatly to his weekend slugging percentage of .900.

Brayden Morris, who appeared in 25 games this season, also made the most of his opportunities against the Trojans. The sophomore catcher was 2-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt in two games over the weekend.

Should the Tornados advance, the team would prefer to avoid top-seeded Catawba. The Indians, the current No. 5 team in the nation and top-ranked squad in the Southeast Region, swept a weather-shortened two-game series with Brevard in Salisbury on February 23. SAC Pitcher of the Year Craig Brooks hurled a seven-inning no-hitter in the first game and will be the likely starter in Catawba’s matchup on Friday. Brooks and a trio of Game Two pitchers held the Tornados to an .048 batting average in the doubleheader while putting up 11 runs of their own on 13 hits.

The other possible Friday opponent is Newberry, which is the region’s sixth-ranked team and has won 16 of its last 17 games, including 13 in a row dating back to April 1. While the Wolves are undeniably one of the hottest teams in college baseball, the Tornados took the first two games of the teams’ series in mid-March at Gil Coan Field and held a ninth-inning lead in Game Three before the Wolves stormed back to take an 8-5 win.

Newberry will likely send first team all-conference selection Wesley Camp, who finished the season with eight wins and a 3.16 ERA, to the bump in Friday’s contest. One of Camp’s two losses, however, came in the first game of the series with Brevard, when he surrendered nine runs on 12 hits in his most difficult outing of the season. Much like Anderson, the Wolves struggled to keep Christian Dix off the basepaths in the series; the Greensboro native had five hits and a walk in the series for an impressive .833 on-base percentage.

The Tornados and Trojans will square off at 7:00 p.m. at McNair Field, home of the Coastal Plain League’s Forest City Owls, on Thursday evening. Should Brevard come away with a victory, the Tornados would face Catawba on Friday at noon or Newberry Friday at 3:45 p.m.

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