15th-ranked Nighthawks provide early challenge for Eagles

15th-ranked Nighthawks provide early challenge for Eagles

VIDEO: Tom Griffin Interview

Carson-Newman Baseball Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For its first three-game series of the 2016 season, Carson-Newman travels to face 15th-ranked North Georgia beginning Friday at 3 p.m. at Bob Stein Stadium.

Carson-Newman (0-1) is looking for its first win over a ranked team since a 5-1 win over 23rd-ranked Catawba on April 18, 2013 in the first game of the SAC Baseball Championships. The last series win for the Eagles over a ranked foe came during the same season, a sweep of No. 19 Tusculum on Feb. 15-17.

"Tom Cantrell has been there for quite a while," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "He is a very close friend of mine. We enjoy playing because we are quite similar in our styles and what we want as far as our program. It's always good to go play them because we know what we are getting with Tom and his group. They have a great staff and you know first off that they will be prepared on the fundamentals and then mentally they are going to be pretty tough."

Griffin will get his first look at his weekend starting rotation led by senior all-region pick Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.) who is joined by freshman Austin Ray (Swords Creek, Va.) and senior Dustin Batson (Pisgah Forest, N.C.).

It is also an opportunity for the Eagles to shuffle a lineup that has plenty of depth at this point in the season as Griffin tries to adapt to a new club.

"I think as coaches we realize that the process each day is to get better and to see where guys have to make adjustments," Griffin said. "That occurs for every team throughout the whole course of the year. I think there are sometimes where you get into April and there are still some adjustments to be made. You'd love to have a set lineup that works but I think kids change. Some make huge improvements. Some go through mental issues that they're struggling a little bit. As coaches we have to make sure that we recognize that and try to help them."

The two programs are meeting for the 14th time on Friday afternoon as the Nighthawks (1-1) hold an 8-5 lead in the all-time series with each contest coming under Griffin's tenure.

Carson-Newman has won three straight contests at North Georgia with its last loss in Dahlonega, Ga. coming on March 16, 2010 when the Nighthawks took a 17-2 decision. The most recent meetings at Bob Stein Stadium came on March 13 and 14, 2012. C-N won those contests 8-2 and 7-6 with current assistant Daniel Sharp taking home the win in the final meeting of that series working 1.1 flawless innings.

North Georgia is picked to win the Peach Belt Conference after winning the league's title in 2015 with a 38-17 overall record and a 22-8 mark inside of conference and ranked No. 19 in the final Collegiate Baseball Division II Poll. The Nighthawks earned their first NCAA Tournament appearnance since 2008 and came within a wild pitch in bottom of the ninth in a scoreless gamefrom beating eventual national runners-up Catawba in the Southeast Region.

UNG returns six position players from the 2015 roster with PBC Freshman of the Year shortstop Connor Hoover, all-conference catcher Sam Tidaback and pitcher Brandon Agar. The trio were also selected to NCBWA's All-Southeast Region teams.

The Nighthawks begin the 2016 season with eight straight home games and opened the season with a doubleheader split with Valdosta State over the last weekend of January.

Freshman infielder Erick Delgado was named the PBC's Freshman of the Week honors after going 2-for-6 with a run scored in the two contests against the Blazers.

North Georgia did not attempt a stolen base in the first two games of the season and used seven extra-base hits in the opening series. The Nighthawks struck out 19 times while drawing just four walks against Valdosta State.

Each game over the weekend will be broadcast on cneagles.com/live beginning 10 minutes prior to the first pitch as Matthew Osborne provides the play-by-play call on the Eagle Sports Network.

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