Cork popper sends Eagles to Limestone to open 2019

VIDEO: Tom Griffin Interview

C-N Game Notes (PDF)

GAFFNEY, S.C. – Baseball season is back as Carson-Newman opens its 2019 campaign with a four-game road trip to Limestone starting Friday at 4 p.m. with a doubleheader on Saturday and single game on Sunday starting at 1 p.m.

"No. 1, defensively – play very solid defensively," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "I think the idea of communicating in the dugout and in the field. The things that we feel like we can control we want to be really good at.

"The other thing we have stressed even more was the things that won't be measured on paper – communication, enthusiasm, getting on and off the field. Things that won't be measured in a scouting report – can we win that as well? That's what I want to see more than anything else."

Griffin's group has produced winning seasons in each of the last three years looking a fourth consecutive winning campaign. The last time the program registered a string of that length came over a nine-year period from 2002 to 2010.

The 2019 season marks the 25th straight campaign that Carson-Newman will open the year on the road since it last hosted an opener in 1992. Since 1990, the Eagles are 11-18 on opening day having lost four in-a-row and eight of the last nine with the lone victory in that span coming on Feb. 1, 2014 at Augusta, a 6-1 win over the Jaguars.

For the fourth time in five years the Eagles will pop the cork on a regular season versus Limestone after a 2-1, 14-inning loss in 2015, a 5-4 setback on Feb. 2, 2016 and a 9-8 setback on Feb. 2, 2018.

C-N has faced off against Limestone 32 times as both have won 16 contests. The Saints won three of the four games a year ago, two-one run contests and a two-run triumph. The Eagles saw Kyle Cagle take a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Feb. 3 to pick up a 7-1 victory.

Offense was not a problem for C-N as the club stole 15 bags across the four outings racking up 39 hits while racking up four home runs and 18 walks. On the mound, the Eagles allowed 32 hits in the three losses and 23 runs as the Saints sent seven balls over the fence.

"We have always had great, competitive affairs with Limestone. It's going to happen again this weekend. I know for his club they have a lot of power and they play very well in their park. We will have to pitch it well, goes without saying. We are all going to try to figure out what we have."

In the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll, Limestone was picked to finish fifth after qualifying for the league tournament for the first time since 2014 a year ago losing to second-ranked North Greenville and Mount Olive.

The Saints were once again one of the top power hitting teams in the country ranking 12th in America in long balls with 77. Three players ranked in the top 90 in the country led by Chase Allen's 24 to rank second nationally. The senior was named to the NCBWA All-Southeast Region after setting the single season and career homer records for Limestone. Despite going 4-for-15 versus C-N last year, he hit two bombs and drove in seven with four runs scored.

Two other individuals are preseason all-conference players in pitcher Eric Mullinax and infielder Trace Whetsell. Mullinax missed the majority of 2018 with Tommy John surgery but has won four games in his career. He threw two innings allowing two runs in a 9-8 win to open 2018.

Whetsell had 18 multi-hit games finishing with a .317 batting average. He went 2-for-12 against the Eagles with a run scored over three starts last season.

Overall as a team, Limestone ranked towards the bottom of its conference in statistical categories notching the sixth-fewest stolen bases of any team in the country last season with 20. The Saints allowed 12 hits per game ranking 34th in most conceded among Division II teams.

Fans can follow along to the contests by visiting @CNathletics on Twitter and by clicking here for live stats provided by Limestone.

- CN -