JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Entering the final weekend of the 2016 regular season, Carson-Newman travels to Tusculum for a three-game series beginning Friday evening at 6 p.m. at Pioneer Park for the final series in South Atlantic Conference action. The series will conclude with a doubleheader scheduled for Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
The only slot that has been secured in the league is that Brevard will not qualify for the SAC Baseball Championships and finish in last place regardless of the weekend's outcomes.
For Carson-Newman (26-19, 11-10), the Eagles can finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 9 spot looking to finish in the top-eight slots for next week's tournament at Smokies Stadium. Overall, between the eligible teams in the league there are 32 different tiebreaker scenarios.
"You don't know what will happen when you win," Carson-Newman baseball coach Tom Griffin said. "You just have to take care of business without looking at scoreboards. If you take care of your end of the deal, you should be okay. What we're stressing to our guys is do what we are capable of doing. If we worry about other games, I think we lose focus on what your job is."
The two programs have met 78 times in the last 26 seasons with each side picking up 39 wins in that span, but the recent success has been in favor of the Pioneers (32-12, 14-7).
Tusculum is 8-1 on its home field in Carson-Newman's last three trips to Pioneer Park with the last series win for the Eagles on the road in the series coming in 2010 when they won two out of three contests.
The Pioneers have won each of the last two series between the two schools dating back to a C-N sweep at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex on Feb. 15-17, 2013.
In 2015, TC sweep the series as each contest was decided by one run. The first game of the series saw the Eagles strikeout 20 times in a 13-inning loss to reset the program record for K's in a game.
Tusculum enters the weekend in sole possession of second-place in the league standings having won seven of its last nine games overall. The Pioneers have won five of the seven series they have played this season losing two out of three at Catawba and versus Wingate.
In two national polls, Tusculum is receiving votes while D2 Baseball News has it ranked ninth. The NCBWA region poll has the Pioneers ranked sixth, the highest SAC team.
The pitching staff for coach Doug Jones has been the best in the league this season having recorded a 2.69 team ERA in SAC games, more than two runs better than Newberry's 4.87. They have struck out the most batters (194) while walking the fewest (52).
Overall, Tusculum's hurlers ranked fourth in the nation in ERA (2.54), third in strikeouts per nine innings (9.6), fourth in WHIP (1.15) and 10th in hits yielded per nine innings (7.7).
Senior southpaw Placido Torres ranks first in the country in ERA (0.61), first in hits allowed per nine innings (4.25), first in strikeouts (133) and first in WHIP (0.66).
Each of the three starting pitchers the Eagles will see this weekend are in the top-six in the league in ERA with Ethan Carpenter in ranked second (2.36) and Christian Raasch in sixth (3.20) as that duo has recorded 50 strikeouts a piece.
"You can't get away from the number," Griffin said. "Anyone that looks at their stats, it pops right out. [Torres] is the best pitcher in Division II baseball. Those numbers are absolutely incredible. He's that good of a competitor. He's not the only guy. You know that they are all going to be prepared."
At the plate, the Pioneers have scored the third-fewest runs in league games this season hitting .301 as a group inside of conference action.
Junior Nick Lacina is fifth in the SAC in batting average leading the team with a .387 with senior Kevin Victoriano ranking 11th in the country with 15 home runs per game, second in the SAC and eighth in the league with 14 doubles.
Each game of the weekend series will be broadcast on cneagles.com/live beginning 10 minutes prior to the first pitch on the Eagle Sports Network.
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