GAFFNEY, S.C. – For the second time since 1990 Carson-Newman swept a three-game series to open the year by holding off a ninth-inning Limestone charge to beat the Saints 18-17 on Sunday afternoon at Founders FCU Stadium.
The only other time that the Eagles had ever began a year with a three-game sweep came back in 2009 when Carson-Newman (3-0) won the set at Augusta en route to a 4-0 opening to the season.
"We showed some toughness to be down like they were a couple different times and come back," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "We did a good job with two-out hits. We didn't pitch it well walking 11 guys but we made one more play than they did to earn the win. We didn't do a good job early in the game making adjustments at the plate and I think we made some mental mistakes defensively. It's nice to win three. We showed some mental toughness and had some good performances but just like everyone else after the first weekend, we have some things to work on."
The bottom of the lineup packed a punch for the Eagles as the bottom four combined for 10 of the team's 14 hits, 10 runs scored and five RBIs. Charlie Brown (Sevierville, Tenn.) produced a career effort with a 3-for-5 day with three RBIs and three runs scored. Micah Genter (Jasper, Tenn.) went 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored and Mark Treadway (Friendsville, Tenn.) scored three times notching three knocks. All told nine players scored a run and eight tallied an RBI.
Trace Whetsell hit a lead-off home run in the bottom of the first frame to open the scoring. The Eagles responded quickly getting a sacrifice fly from Gunnar Ricketts (Hixson, Tenn.) and an RBI single to center from Genter to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Limestone's offense scored the next six runs of the game with five coming in the bottom of the second, all coming with two outs. Vance Deese and Brian Forbes delivered two-out, two-run knocks before Ben Huber capped the inning with a single to left field. A Whetsell sacrifice fly expanded the lead to 7-2.
C-N closed the gap to two runs in the top of the fourth thanks to the first-career home run from Brown, a three-run blast to left field with one out making it a 7-5 game.
The Saints seized those three runs back in the bottom of the fifth doing so once again with two outs. Deese started the rally with an RBI double to left and Huber capped the inning with a two-run, two-bagger to right center.
Brown started a two-out rally for Griffin's group in the top of the sixth with a base hit to left field. Zach Boze (Gallatin, Tenn.) punched a single into left field to bring home a run and a second crossed the plate when the ball was mishandled in left. A passed ball scored Tyler Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn.) to trim the deficit to 10-8.
After Limestone tacked on runs in each of its next two trips to the plate to extend its lead to 12-8, Carson-Newman's offense exploded. The Eagles scored nine times in the eighth inning thanks to four Limestone errors. A hit by pitch, an error and a walk opened the inning. A sacrifice fly and a base hit cut the margin to two forcing a pitching change.
With two men on, Brendan Krob (Justice, Ill.) crushed his first home run of the year to left field to put the Eagles on top. Brown added a two-run single with errors bringing home the remaining two giving C-N a 17-12 cushion with six outs to go.
Carson-Newman added a run in the top of the ninth to go ahead by six, 18-12, going into the bottom of the ninth but Limestone refused to go quietly scoring five times in the bottom of the ninth and loading the bases with two outs. With Nick Adkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) on the rubber, the lefty induced a grounder to third that Boze threw to second to secure the win.
Limestone committed eight errors in the field that led to six unearned runs as all five hurlers that toed the rubber for the Saints yielded a run.
While the bottom of C-N's lineup stood out, the top of the order for the Saints led the way. The top four hitters combined for 14 RBIs and seven runs scored. Deese paced the crew by going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and two runs scored. Whetsell, Forbes and Huber each drove in a trio of runs.
The Eagles conclude their season-opening road trip on Tuesday with a journey to Belmont Abbey to face the Crusaders at Abbey Yard at 4 p.m.
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