JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Paul Kirby hit a pair of home runs and drove in four runs as Carson-Newman cruised to a 9-3 victory over McKendree Friday afternoon at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex in the first game of a four-game series.
The Eagles (6-5) have now won seven of their last eight games to move over .500 for the first time in 2016 while the Bearcats (0-4) are winless in their first four games of the season for the first time since 2009 when they started the season 0-7.
"We liked the aggressiveness," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "We had talked about being tentative. We were more aggressive with the fastball. Before we get into conference play, guys want to get that feel and Kirby got that today. Good energy by our bench. I thought we played with passion today and some energy."
Carson-Newman leadoff batter Ryan Addington (Cincinnati, Ohio) started the bottom of the first inning with a five-pitch walk. The center fielder moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and went to third base on a fly out. Addington scored on a wild pitch to put the Eagles ahead 1-0.
In the bottom of the third inning, Carson-Newman exploded for five runs. Junior shortstop Jimmy Rice (Middlesex, N.J.) reached on a fielding error with one out followed by a single into center field by senior third basemen Brandon Roberts (Davie, Fla.). The next batter, junior first basemen Paul Kirby (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) drove a 2-2 pitch well over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run. A hit batter and a walk put two runners on base with two outs. The first pitch that sophomore designated hitter Austin Kearney (Powell, Tenn.) laced a double into the right-center field alley to plate two more runs and extend the advantage to 6-0.
McKendree put a run on the board in the top of the fifth inning. Carson-Newman starting pitcher Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.) had retired 12 straight batters when Colton Calhoun tucked a 2-2 pitch inside of the fair pole down the left-field line with two outs to pull the visiting group within five at 6-1.
Grant Anderson took Apicella deep with one out in the top of the seventh inning as the designated hitter drove the first pitch he saw over the left-center field fence to cut the deficit to 6-2.
Kirby led off the bottom of the seventh stanza with his second home run of the day driving a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence to get the Eagles back on the scoreboard at 7-2. The junior is the first C-N player in 2016 with a multi-homer game and the first Eagle since Cade Snapp (Seymour, Tenn.) hit a pair of dingers against Bluefield State on March 3, 2015.
"I was seeing the ball really well today," Kirby said. "We prepared this week really well. The weather was bad. We got a lot of precipitation but we stuck with it and we got a lot of good hacks in the cage. I think it transferred over to the field for me."
The Eagles added insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs Addington reached on a throwing error and Rice clubbed his second home run of the season, a deep drive over left-center field fence on the first pitch he saw to push the lead to 9-2.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning first basemen Keith Rogers hit the third solo home run of the day for the Bearcats over the right-center field fence on a 1-0 offering.
Four of Carson-Newman's 10 hits went for extra bases. Kirby led the way with his second three-hit day of the season going 3-for-4 with two homers, four RBIs and two runs scored. Kearney tallied hit first multi-hit outing of the year with a 2-for-4 day with two RBIs.
Apicella (3-1) worked his second complete game of the season giving up three earned runs on five hits and one walk while racking up a season-high 11 strikeouts on 119 pitches.
McKendree committed three errors while tallying five hits without putting a runner in scoring position in the game.
Carson-Newman and McKendree will play two games Saturday afternoon beginning at noon playing a nine-inning affair in game one and a seven-inning effort in game two. Both games will be broadcast on cneagles.com/live beginning 10 minutes prior to first pitch on the Eagle Sports Network.
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