JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman is searching for South Atlantic Conference wins having lost six straight with Tusculum riding to town starting Friday at 2 p.m. and concluding with a doubleheader starting at noon on Saturday.
"I think our guys have learned from it," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "I think that a true test of your culture and your program is when you are going through some stretches, what do they do day-to-day. They have done an exceptional job staying with what they are supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis which means their energy in practice, their intent and focus and their enthusiasm and passion has been tremendous."
It had been four years since the Eagles were swept in back-to-back series when Tusculum (18-10, 7-2) and Lincoln Memorial took down Carson-Newman (19-10, 2-6) in late February and early March of 2015 as part of a seven-game losing streak against the league.
In 94 prior meetings, the Eagles hold a 50-44 edge in the all-time series having won each of the last four after sweeping the Pioneers in 2018 for the second time in three years. The last time C-N won at least five in-a-row was an eight-game mark from 1997-2000.
Due to scheduling and weather, this weekend is the first three-game series the clubs have play at Mossy Creek since Feb. 15-17, 2013 when C-N swept 19th-ranked Tusculum. The Pioneers have won nine of the last 12 games at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex to even the tally at 21 in Jefferson City.
A year ago, Griffin's group won two 7-4 games and a 6-4 affair. Brendan Campbell (Yardley, Pa.) was the team's top hitter going 5-for-10 scoring three times with Brett Langhorne hitting a homer and driving four over the series.
Greg Valentine (Knoxville, Tenn.) has thrown 4 1/3 innings over three outings against the Pioneers recording three strikeouts while not allowing a single run on two hits and two walks.
After starting the year 1-7, the Pioneers are 18-3 since having not lost two-straight at any point in the last month. The team has feasted at home going 13-1 at Pioneer Park versus a 6-9 mark on the road. In those 15 road outings, it is hitting .243 versus .324 at home scoring nearly half as many runs. On the mound, the team's ERA is 2.56 at home versus 6.24 in away affairs.
Friday night the Eagles will have to contend with reigning NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week Charles Hall. The right-hander broke the NCAA Division II single-game record with 22 strikeouts last Friday in a 10-1 win over Queens. Five other hurlers had 21 most recently done on April 1, 1999 when Nate Kosoc of Saint Rose fanned 21 batters against NJIT.
"They know that their guy on Friday night is their Clayton Kershaw," Griffin said. "They know what they are going to get and when you have a guy like that you are going to have some confidence and bravado. That's a great challenge. All we can control is the baseball. We have to make sure that we are aggressive and putting balls in play. He's going to strikeout guys. He's a strikeout pitcher. It's going to happen. You have to limit it."
The senior has cranked his game up a notch this season leading the nation with 88 strikeouts while tallying a 4-0 record with a 1.58 ERA, best in the SAC. At Barry in the first game of the year, he punched out six, but since then he has been in double figures in every game having allowed one home run all year. Last year against the Eagles, Hall took his second loss of the year working six innings while yielding five runs, four earned on seven hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
Tusculum is the third-highest scoring offense in league affairs posting eight per game this season thanks in large part to patience as the team ranks second in the country with 165 walks on the year. After hitting three homers in the first 15 games of the year, the unit has 12 in the last 14.
Daulton Martin leads the country in doubles with 17 on the season ranking seventh in the SAC with a .374 batting average. He had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday against Bluefield State and is hitting .244 in March after a .466 clip in February. He went 7-for-14 against the Eagles last season.
Fans can enjoy all three games during the weekend with audio and video streams available on cneagles.com/live starting 10 minutes before first pitch courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network.
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