BELMONT, N.C. – Opening its longest road journey of the 2019 season, 22nd-ranked Carson-Newman starts a five-game trip Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Belmont Abbey looking to put a punctuation mark on the winningest month in nine years.
"Belmont Abbey – outstanding club, well-coached team and always a challenge," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "All we are going to try to do Tuesday is correct some things and get our aptitude better as far as understanding the game and not make the mistakes that we are making. All of those things we want to keep getting better at."
Wednesday afternoon is just the second time in the last seven meetings in which the Crusaders enter a contest against the Eagles not ranked. It will be the 39th meeting between the two programs as Carson-Newman (13-3) holds the edge at 23-15.
The teams split a pair of outings last season with each winning on their home field. Belmont Abbey (7-6) won the first effort on March 14 in a game that featured 29 hits outslugging the Eagles 15-9. Nine C-N hitters had at least one hit as four players tallied two-hit days. Josh Genthe led the charge for Belmont Abbey by going 4-for-4 with five RBIs and a run scored while doubling three times. Six Crusaders had two or more pokes.
When the two teams tussled at Mossy Creek on April 3, Griffin's group fell behind 2-0 after the first two innings before scoring the final four to win 4-2 to upend the second-ranked team at the time. C-N had been 0-3 all-time since 1990 against teams ranked second in the country snapping the Abbey's 10-game winning streak. The Eagles win is the second-highest ranked team the school has ever beaten as C-N toppled No. 1 Florida Southern in the NCAA South Regional on May 14, 1999.
Three Eagles had multi-hit efforts as Jordan Griffin (Ellerslie, Ga.) went 2-for-3 with the home run and two runs scored. Tyler Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn.) had two pokes and an RBI and Brown went 2-for-3 with a run scored.
C-N had won four straight trips to Abbey Yard prior to a recent two-game skid over the last two seasons. The Crusaders hold a 12-11 lead in the series when playing at home but are 11-4 when visiting the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.
Entering the 2019 campaign, the Crusaders were picked to finish third in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll after going 40-14 overall and 18-5 in conference contests. The program has been to the NCAA postseason in two of the last three seasons.
As the No. 3 seed a year ago, the club won its first three games in the NCAA Southeast Regional including a 7-3 win over eventual region champ Columbus State. The Cougars bounced back to take 5-0 in 12 innings and 10-7 wins to advance to the Division II World Series.
Belmont Abbey needs to replace one of the greatest senior classes in the history of the school. Eight of the team's top nine hitters from the last several seasons graduated. Jakob Rolly is the lone returner from that crew finished fourth on the roster with 12 homers driving in 41 while hitting .281.
On the mound, the pitching staff lost two of its top three starters but returns seven players who threw at least 20 innings a year ago led by Sam Luchansky who went 9-1 over 24 appearances with a 3.77 earned run average.
This season, the team is 4-1 inside of the friendly confines hitting nearly 70 points higher at Abbey Yard despite hitting two of the team's 12 homers at the park. The team's ERA in home games is 3.98 versus a 6.26 mark on the road.
The Eagle Sports Network will provide an audio stream available for free on cneagles.com/live starting 10 minutes prior to the first pitch Wednesday afternoon.
- CN -