Marvelous Valentine, late rush propels Eagles over Saints in finale

Box Score (PDF)

GAFFNEY, S.C. – Greg Valentine produced the best outing of his career and Carson-Newman scored seven runs in the final three innings to break a 1-1 tie and topple Limestone 8-3 to seal a series victory over the Saints Sunday afternoon at Founders FCU Stadium.

"It was a tight ball game for much of the day," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "Greg Valentine was really good and kept us in it the whole time. We didn't capitalize early on some opportunities so his job was to keep us in striking distance.

"Malik Kyle came up as a pinch hitter and fell behind two strikes before drawing a walk. Tyler Thompson drove the ball to center and have a phenomenal weekend. We did a fantastic job situational hitting with great at-bats."

Eleven appearances shy of setting the school record for appearances for a career, Valentine went a career-high seven innings setting a new high with seven punch outs while scattering six hits and one earned run. The Knoxville, Tenn. native is now 12-2 in his career over 78 outings.

On the weekend, Carson-Newman (3-1) scored 36 runs, its most in the first four contests of a campaign since scoring 40 in 2009. The Eagles win three of their first four games of the year for the first time since 2014 when the squad started the year 7-1.

The home club lit the lamp first in their first trip to the plate. Josh Evans doubled to left field with one out, moved to third base and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Ryan Creps.

Carson-Newman tied the score moments later. With one out and no one on in the top of the second inning, Tyler Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn.) fouled off three straight pitches before launching a 3-2 offering over the wall in right-center field to knot the game at one.

A hit batter and a walk to the first two Eagles to come to the plate in the top of the seventh started a threat. After a pop out, Ethan Goforth (Blacksburg, Va.) was intentionally walked. An infield pop out brought up Malik Kyle (Jefferson City, Tenn.) with two outs. The junior fell behind 1-2 before drawing a walk to give C-N the lead at 2-1. The next batter grounded out forcing the Eagles to settle for a run.

Brendan Campbell opened the top of the eighth with a walk moving to second on a wild pitch. Five pitches later, Thompson lined a ball that evaded the diving mitt of Evans in center field to plate Campbell. Mark Treadway (Friendsville, Tenn.) drew a walk. On a pick-off attempt to first base, the ball slid under the glove of the first baseman to score Thompson.

Following a second intentional pass to Goforth, John Sharpe (Franklin, Tenn.) ambushed the first pitch blasting it well over the wall in left field onto a grassy hill to cap a five-run eighth inning and put the Eagles on top 7-1.

With a runner at first base and one out, Micah Genter (Jasper, Tenn.) lined a ball to left field that bounced away from the left fielder allowing Dom Leo (Knoxville, Tenn.) to cross the dish and extend the margin to 8-1.

The Saints loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the ninth. Back-to-back two-run doubles from Alex Cornell and Jeff Towle pulled the Saints within three at 8-5. Matt Bradley (Talbott, Tenn.) entered the game and picked up a strikeout and fly out to seal the win and earn his second save of the year.

"Goforth was really solid this whole weekend. We made some mistakes in the field and Bradley shut the door on that late when they were thinking that they had a chance in the ninth. We are very excited about the weekend. Some arms stepped up and did really well. Offensively, our numbers are good in terms of execution and we attained our goals."

Sharpe, Thompson and Goforth each had two hits on the day as Sharpe drove in three runs and Thompson brought home a pair. Despite being outhit 9-8, C-N drew nine walks while allowing just one.

Cornell was the only Saint to finish with multiple hits as he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Alex Grooms took the loss on the mound for Limestone despite going six innings of two-run baseball. The bullpen allowed six earned runs on five hits and five walks.

The Eagles open the doors to the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. against King. Broadcast coverage will be on courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network.

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