JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – A rematch of the 2017 South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championships open the 2018 tournament for Carson-Newman as the third-seeded Eagles take on fourth-seeded Lincoln Memorial Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Smokies Stadium.
"The venue is a little different," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin cited. "As far as other parts of it being a tournament, once a pitch is thrown and action starts all players truly forget what is going on. Throughout the year you have to get rid of distractions, in the dugout or in the stands, you are always trying to control distractions."
Carson-Newman has won four SAC Championships (1992, 1993, 1997 and 2007) since the tournament began in 1991. Catawba (7) and Wingate (6) are the only schools with more titles. Tusculum has also won four trophies.
The Eagles hold a 52-42 record in the league tournament that includes a 10-8 mark in games played in the Volunteer State. Prior to the 2016 season, the last time the championships were held in Tennessee came in 2006 in Greeneville.
The regular season champion has won the tournament title 13 times in 28 tries while a top four team has won all but two championships. Wingate was a five seed in 2015 and finished the SAC regular season with a 15-15 mark. In 2000, Lenoir-Rhyne was sixth in the regular season in 2000 going 13-10 before marching to grab the hardware.
Over the last 15 seasons, the three seed has taken home the hardware on six occasions including four of the last 10. C-N last finished third in the league in 2006 taking down Presbyterian in the first game before dropping contests to Tusculum and Mars Hill to be eliminated.
The Eagles have played at Smokies Stadium 16 times playing each regular season during a stretch from 2009-2014 while holding a 8-8 record and is 6-4 in the conference championships over the last two years.
Friday evening marks the fifth time the two clubs have met in the SAC Championships with each club winning two games each (2010, 2013 - twice and 2017). The teams met in the championship round in 2013 and 2017 with Lincoln Memorial coming out on top in each try. Overall the Railsplitters and Eagles have each won 33 games through 66 efforts with LMU winning 10 of the last 11 including two out of three during the regular season.
The 'Splitters won their second league tournament title in the last five years in 2017 defeating the Eagles in 2017. LMU was 23-8 at home this season but just 8-10 in road outings. The numbers reflect a drop off with an ERA that is one run higher on the road and an offense that hits 60 points lower in road efforts.
For the first time in the history of the program, the school garnered a SAC Pitcher of the Year as left-hander took home the honor after going 7-3 with a 2.98 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings. This will be the third straight year that the righty gets the ball in LMU's first game of the tournament as he has yielded three earned runs on 11 hits with 16 punch outs in his first two efforts. On March 23, the lefty worked a complete game with 12 strikeouts to earn a win on the Friday night allowing two hits and one earned run.
"Having seen him helps to a certain degree," Griffin said. "That young man does a good job mixing it up. He locates really well. He has three pitches that he is confident in and can locate at will. He can throw at pitch in any count. He's got a great presence on the mound as far as confidence goes.
"All we can control is the pitch that is coming to us and having a good plan when we go up there and adjust accordingly as the game goes on. It's stuff we have talked about all year since we have seen a lot of good pitchers this year."
Offensively, the program is the highest scoring team in the league with nearly nine runs per outing with 105 doubles, fifth in the nation, and fifth in the country in walks.
Logan Augustine finished the year fourth in batting average with a .398 clip and an on-base percentage over .500. Tyler Adams has scored 61 times this year to rank behind Delta State's Zack Shannon for the nation's lead.
Every game over the weekend will be featured on cneagles.com/live starting 10 minutes before the first pitch courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network with video and audio streams available for each outing.
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