JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman baseball team returns home for a key stretch of games beginning on Thursday.
The Eagles will square off against Anderson in a single game on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex before opening their South Atlantic Conference series with Lenoir-Rhyne on Friday at 2 p.m. C-N will wrap up the four-game homestand with a doubleheader with the Bears on Saturday afternoon beginning at noon.
C-N (13-8, 6-3) will look to keep its momentum going after winning nine out of its last 11 contests, including five out of its last six SAC outings. The Eagles claimed a series win over preseason conference favorite Tusculum last weekend.
"Coming off a winning streak of nine games and winning two of three against Tusculum at their place, this stretch of home games is important to keep our momentum," Eagles head coach Tom Griffin said. "We are one game out of first place in the conference, so the games with Lenoir-Rhyne are important to keep within reach of first place."
This weekend's SAC series will showcase two of the top hitting teams in the league. Lenoir-Rhyne (12-11, 6-3) ranks second in the SAC with a .347 team batting average, while the Eagles are third with a .339 average. The Eagles and Bears are also among the league leaders in home runs with 32 and 28, respectively.
Seniors Jeff Lockwood (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Derek Long (Jefferson City, Tenn.) have been C-N's leaders in the batter's box this season. Lockwood, who is on an 11-game hitting streak, boasts a .421 batting average with a league-best 10 home runs. Long is batting .420 this season and has hit safely in 11 out of his last 12 outings.
The Eagles will continue to rely on Lockwood and Long at the plate, but Griffin said he has been pleased with the production of his lineup from top to bottom.
"Derek Long and Jeff Lockwood have been very hot as hitters, not only getting key hits but also getting on base to start rallies," Griffin offered. "A good hitting team needs more than one or two good hitters, and the rest of our lineup has been very productive. This week some other guys are capable of carrying the offense."
C-N is also among the league leaders in pitching with a 5.35 earned run average. Junior Cy Fraker (Indianapolis, Ind.) has been solid on the mound for the Eagles as he leads the way with a 4-0 record and a 2.39 ERA.
Preseason first team All-SAC selection Rob Knight has carried the Bears offense this season, batting .441 with a team-best 32 RBIs. Outfielder Stephen Andrews has also been a force at the plate for Lenoir-Rhyne as he is hitting at a .363 clip with nine home runs and 10 doubles.
Griffin said his team will need to play better in the field against a solid offensive team like the Bears.
"We still need to get more consistent with our defense and pitching effectiveness, which I believe we will this week," Griffin said. "Being at home is always a slight advantage."
The Eagles went 1-2 against Lenoir-Rhyne last season.