Dominant starting pitching helps Eagles to sweep of Bearcats

VIDEO: Tom Griffin Interview

VIDEO: Brandon Roberts Interview

VIDEO: Doubleheader Highlights

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Senior Brandon Roberts (Davie, Fla.) racked up four hits, two home runs and four RBIs to help the Carson-Newman Eagles to a doubleheader sweep of the McKendree Bearcats Saturday afternoon at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.

Roberts guided the Eagles' (8-5) offense in game one to an 8-1 win over the Bearcats, while C-N scattered nine hits and five runs and held on late to preserve a 5-4 win in the second contest. Starters Dustin Batson (Pisgah Forest, N.C.) and Ryan Eberle (Cookeville, Tenn.) combined for 11 strikeouts and surrendered just 12 hits in 14 innings of work to each pick up a win.

"It goes back to the catchers," coach Tom Griffin said of his pitchers' performances. "Greg (Jones), I think did a fantastic job in game one. Batson threw very well and I think he wasn't at his best; when you're not got your best stuff and you are able to get a complete game that says a lot. He really competed well and him and Jones got into a good relationship in that game. Eberle wasn't his best start he had but he competed well and got out of situation. That's what you've got to do most of the times in pitching. That shows a little bit of mental toughness."

GAME ONE: Carson-Newman 8, McKendree 1

The Eagles got on the board in the bottom of the first with three runs. After Jimmy Rice (Middlesex, N.J.) doubled to left center with one out, Roberts walked to put runners on first and second. Center fielder Paul Kirby (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) sent a three-hopper to the shortstop Luke Johnson but the Bearcat sent the throw to second that was sailed into left field; Rice scored from second on the error and Roberts advanced to third. The third baseman scored from third on an Eric Lynch (Boonton, N.J.) groundout. First baseman Austin Kearney hit a grounder through the hole at short to score Kirby from second and C-N was ahead 3-0 after an inning.

Carson-Newman tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third. Rice was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Roberts stepped to the plate and drove the first pitch he saw over the wall in right center for his fourth home run of the season to put the Eagles ahead 5-0.

McKendree pulled back a run with a solo home run by Colton Calhoun with two outs in the top of the sixth to make the score 5-1.

Roberts led off the eighth with his second home run of the contest. The senior drove a full-count pitch from reliever Logan Zachary down the left field line for his fifth bomb of the season and his third RBI of the day. Sophomore Austin Kearney (Powell, Tenn.) reached on a single and set the table for catcher Greg Jones (Maryville, Tenn.). The junior drove his first home run in 23 at-bats over the wall in left field for his first two RBI of the season and the Eagles led 8-1 through eight.

Batson worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to finish his first career complete game and moved to 1-1 in 2016. The senior worked nine innings of one-run baseball and struck out seven. McKendree's Keith Rogers took the loss to fall to 0-2.

Roberts led the Eagles with a 2-for-2 performance with two home runs, three RBIs and two walks. Freshman Ian Pung (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Kearney each had two hits.

Carson-Newman scored eight runs on eight hits, while the Bearcats mustered just one run on seven hits.

GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 5, McKendree 4

After Rice walked and Roberts singled to lead off the bottom of the first inning, a passed ball with Kirby at the dish put both runners in scoring position. Kirby laced a single to left center field to plate both runners and put the Eagles ahead 2-0.

The Bearcats pulled back a run in the top of the third. Catcher Connor Davault singled with one out and advanced to second on a Luke Johnson walk. A RBI single off the bat of Keith Rogers that got through the hole in the right side of the infield scored Davault and cut the C-N lead to 2-1.

The Eagles extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth all with two outs. Junior Ryan Addington (Cincinnati, Ohio) doubled to right center and then advanced to third on a wild pitch by McKendree starter Sam Lidisky. Rice worked a full-count and walked to put runners on the corners for Roberts. The senior hit a single to center to plate Addington and moved Rice to second. Kirby followed suit, doubled to center, scored Rice and Roberts, who were running on the pitch, and put C-N ahead 5-1.

The Bearcats made the contest interesting in the seventh off closer Greg Valentine (Knoxville, Tenn.). The freshman got the first batter with a groundout but ran into trouble. After issuing a one-out walk, three-straight singles plated three runs and cut the Eagles' lead to 5-4 with one out and runners on first and second. Valentine picked off Johnson trying to steal third and induced groundout to end the game.

Eberle picked up the win to move to 2-1 on the season, while Lidisky took the loss and fell to 0-1; Valentine picked up his second save of the year.

Addington, Roberts, Kirby and junior Hunter Wood (College Grove, Tenn.) each tallied two hits. The top-three hitters in the C-N lineup, Addington, Rice and Roberts, were responsible for all five runs scored for the Eagles.

Relief pitcher Robert Phlor (O'Fallon, Mo.) worked a perfect inning of work and registered three strikeouts.

The final game of the four-game set between Carson-Newman and McKendree is scheduled for noon on Sunday afternoon at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex. Michael Wottreng will have the call on the Eagle Sports Network.

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