Opening weekend sends Eagles to Palmetto State

VIDEO: Tom Griffin Interview

C-N Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman opens its 2018 season in Gaffney, S.C. with three games against Limestone and one against Pfeiffer starting Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in a doubleheader against the Saints. The Eagles play Pfeiffer at 10 a.m. on Saturday and the Saints again at 4 p.m. to conclude the weekend.

"You always want to get through the weekend with no injuries," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin assessed. "I think it's understanding each other's abilities – not trying to do too much. Play within ourselves and being the best version of ourselves. We have a lot of young players and I think them understanding the adversity of the game. Two at-bats, two strikeouts – how do they handle the next at-bat? Seeing how they handle that adversity is something that we want to see them grow and get better at."

The 2018 season marks the 24th straight campaign that Carson-Newman will open the year on the road since it last hosted an opener in 1992. Since 1990, the Eagles are 11-17 on opening day having lost three straight and seven of the last eight with the lone victory in that span coming on Feb. 1, 2014 at Augusta, a 6-1 win over the Jaguars.

For the third time in four years the Eagles will pop the cork on a regular season versus Limestone after a 2-1, 14-inning loss in 2015 and a 5-4 setback on Feb. 2, 2016.

Overall the two programs have faced off 28 times with C-N holding the overall lead 15-13 despite being 5-13 in Gaffney. The Eagles have earned victories in each of the last three meetings including a pair of wins over the Saints in 2017. The first win of last season came at Founders FCU Stadium, an 11-5 triumph on Feb. 8. Greg Jones hit a long ball and knocked in five runs to give the Eagles their first win at Limestone since April 2, 2008, a seven-game losing skid.

Limestone is coming off of a 22-25 season overall and a 10-17 year in Conference Carolinas play as the unit is picked to finish fifth out of eight teams in the preseason coaches' poll.

"Limestone we play every year and we enjoy that confrontation with coach Wiley and his team," Griffin analyzed. "It is a very good offensive team. Two guys in that lineup that are basically all-region returners coming back that are strong and very gifted players."

Coach Chris Wiley returns plenty of pop from a team that finished ninth in Division II in dingers with 77 on the season as the team was 18th in slugging percentage at .503. Garrett Lowery, an all-region pick in 2017, has graduated after leading the team in roundtrippers (18), runs scored (51) and RBIs (52). The Saints do bring back preseason NCBWA all-region honorees in Zach Piazza and Chase Allen after the duo combined to club 35 taters with 91 RBIs.

Where Limestone is looking to improve is on the mound and in the field. The pitching staff tallied a 6.13 team earned run average and the position players registered a .953 fielding percentage. Both margins were in the bottom in America in their respective categories.

Pfeiffer and C-N are restarting an old tussle as the two squads square off for the 25th time but first since Feb. 8, 2013 and first on a neutral field. The Eagles hold a 13-11 overall edge in a series that has featured double-digit run-scoring efforts in 11 of the first 24 meetings and seven of the last nine.

"Pfeiffer even though they made that transition to D3, most of those guys are returning," Griffin said. "Very good club. We used to play them on a year-to-year basis but we stopped it a couple years ago. We know that they are going to be a good club."

Pfeiffer is starting its first season of being a member of the Division III ranks after going 24-25 overall in 2017 with a 14-15 mark in Conference Carolinas action. The Falcons went 4-1 against the South Atlantic Conference with two wins against Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne and a defeat at the hands of Catawba to open 2017.

While the pitching staff was in the bottom 30 of the nation in ERA at 7.23 a season ago, the offense produced the 27th-most runs in the country at just under eight runs per game. The top player returning player is outfielder Jordan Eckard who was a second-team all-conference pick after hitting .362 with nine stolen bases.

Limestone will provide live stats by clicking here with a video stream available for some games for a fee at this link. Fans can stay up to date with the information by following @CNathletics on Twitter.

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