JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman snapped a five-game South Atlantic Conference losing streak by using a five-run fifth inning and holding off a ninth-inning surge from Lenoir-Rhyne to win the series opener 7-5 on Friday afternoon at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.
"It's about timely hits," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin stated. "Coach [Brandon] Roberts did a really good job getting our guys ready in what to expect. Through game planning and things, coach Roberts did a really good job staying in their ear. You have guys over here charting that helping the plan play out."
In 45 games played between the two programs in Jefferson City, Carson-Newman (21-19, 12-10) has won 36 of the games against Lenoir-Rhyne (25-17, 11-11).
Brett Langhorne (Mechiancsville, Va.) was hit by the third pitch of the bottom of the first inning and stole second base. Back-to-back fly outs to center field allowed the senior to cross the dish and put C-N on top 1-0.
Will Jones led off the top of the third inning by hitting a triple off of the fence in left field. The next batter, Justin Dean, hit a line drive to center field that was deep enough to get Jones across the dish and tie the tally at one.
With two outs and no one on base, Brock Johnson drew a walk on seven pitches. Three tosses later on a 1-1 count, Caleb Beatty laced a ball into the gap in right-center field that short-hopped the fence. Johnson raced around the base paths to give the Bears their first lead at 2-1.
Carson-Newman's offense had one hit entering the fifth before the club sent 11 men to the plate and struck for five runs to go on top 6-2. With one out and a 1-2 count on Jordan Griffin (Ellerslie, Ga.), Mike Sullivan plunked the right-handed hitter in the back. Micah Genter (Jasper, Tenn.) ripped a double down the line in right field to score Griffin and tie the score.
Langhorne followed by singling to right field to plate Genter and put the Eagles on top. Two singles loaded the bases with two outs. Brendan Campbell (Yardley, Pa.) bounced a ball back up the middle that was booted by L-R shortstop Corbin Watson that allowed a pair to cross the plate. A passed ball brought home Ethan Goforth (Blacksburg, Va.) to cap the scoring surge.
After a fly out to center field in the bottom of the seventh, Goforth lined a single into center field and stole second. Campbell bounced a 0-1 offering through the hole in the right side of the infield and into right field to score Goforth and stretch the margin to five runs at 7-2.
Lenoir-Rhyne was not without chances as the team had the lead-off man on base in each of the final four innings hitting into frame-ending double plays twice.
"Lenoir-Rhyne did a great job battling and getting timely hits," Griffin said. "You were thinking here we go again. As a baseball player and as a baseball coach you have to have short memory. That's what this game is about. If you worry about what happened yesterday or a week ago it will creep up. The way they responded – we are very proud."
In the top of the ninth, two doubles and a single with two outs strung together three straight runs to make it 7-5 and put the tying run at second base. Will Gardner (Morristown, Tenn.) was summoned from the bullpen and threw four pitches to punch Aaron Stamper and end the threat for his 10th save of the year.
Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) earned the win on the rubber tossing six innings of two-run baseball on eight hits and two walks while striking out five. He improved to 5-2 on the season.
Goforth and Campbell each had two hits in the game for the Eagles as Goforth went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Campbell had been hitless in his last 11 at-bats before going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
"Keeping the positive mindset," Campbell assessed. "I had been struggling a little bit as of late. I have been telling myself positive thoughts, positive outcomes. Keep squaring balls up. If you don't, move on to the next at-bat."
Lenoir-Rhyne outhit C-N 14-9 as five different players tallied a pair of pokes including each of the top three men in the lineup. Overall every starter had at least one hit on the day.
Matt Sullivan took the loss to fall to 4-4 on the season going 4 2/3 innings allowing six runs, three earned on five hits and two walks with four punch outs. He had retired 12 of the last 13 before the fifth inning.
The two clubs will settle the series on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader starting at noon from the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex. Broadcast coverage starts 10 minutes before first pitch on cneagles.com/live with the Eagle Sports Network providing the commentary.
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