MARS HILL, N.C. – In 14-7 and 12-4 victories, Carson-Newman's bats produced six home runs reaching base at a .533 clip top open South Atlantic Conference action with convincing wins at Henderson Field against Mars Hill Saturday afternoon.
"We came out swinging well right from the beginning," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "We had great at-bats all day long. It wasn't one or two guys but every guy up and down the lineup had a great day. Greg Valentine gave us a great start in game one. To fall behind in game two and come back the way we did was impressive. Matt Bradley was extremely effective and that made a big difference. The day was about the offense and the quality at-bats. We had good energy from the bench and all day in terms of how aggressive we were."
The Eagles have now won six of their last seven SAC openers improving to 18-11 as a program in league openers. Griffin's crew sealed the series victory as well upping the record to 17-11-1 in SAC sets to begin action.
Saturday's performance snapped an eight-game losing streak to Mars Hill (6-10, 1-4) as the Lions had won 14 of the last 16 entering play. Carson-Newman (16-3, 2-0) had not beaten the Lions since March 16, 2015. The Eagles had lost six-straight series since last taking one off of the Lions on March 16-17, 2012.
Tyler Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn.) was one of four Eagles to rack up at least four hits going 5-for-8 with a home run, five RBIs and five runs scored. Jordan Griffin (Ellerslie, Ga.) piled up four hits including two homers driving in six runs.
Game One: CARSON-NEWMAN 14, Mars Hill 7
The Eagles wasted no time scoring as Thompson roped a single into center field with one out in the top of the first two plate a pair. He came in to score on a double down the right-field line by Michael Wroth (Chicopee, Mass.) to make it a 3-0 game before the Lions picked up their bats.
With one on and one out in the top of the second, John Sharpe (Franklin, Tenn.) clobbered a two-run home run over the right-field fence. After a pitching change, the next batter, Malik Kyle (Jefferson City, Tenn.) sent a drive out of the park to center field expanding the margin to 6-0.
C-N added a pair in the third to swell the bulge to eight on an RBI ground out and a single to center field by Sharpe.
The Lions lit the lamp in the bottom of the third. Devin Mangum tripled to start the stanza but was standing at third after two punch outs. Brett Brubaker delivered with a double down the right-field line to make it 8-1.
Sharpe continued his big day at the office with a two-out RBI double to left-center field to score Micah Genter (Jasper, Tenn.) in the top of the fifth to get the differential back to eight at 9-1.
The Lions began a string of scoring in five consecutive innings in the bottom of the fifth scoring twice on a double from Daniel Vitello and Brett Brubaker.
The Eagles had a quick answer getting back-to-back homers from Thompson and Griffin to add to lead and push it to 11-3.
An RBI ground out in the sixth and a solo home run from Adam Plouffe in the seventh cut the margin to six at 11-5. The teams traded runs in the eight with C-N scoring on a double steal of home and the Lions getting a run across on a wild pitch.
Griffin's clan picked up a pair in the top of the ninth on ground outs with Brubaker providing a base hit to right field to get to the final score.
Of the nine Eagles to record a hit on the day, six had at least two knocks with Sharpe leading the way with a 3-for-6 effort driving in five runs. Thompson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored and Kyle posted three knocks scoring twice.
Ethan Goforth (Blacksburg, Va.) scored four times adding a pair of pokes with Genter and Griffin each tacking on a pair of hits.
On the mound, Greg Valentine (Knoxville, Tenn.) earned his sixth win of the season punching out a career-high nine batters over six stanzas. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits and a walk.
Brubaker had four of the home team's 11 hits on the day with a couple doubles while driving in three runs. Paul Martin went 2-for-4 as the other Lion with a multi-hit effort.
Every pitcher for Mars Hill that threw at least a complete inning allowed at least three runs with Cameron Howell taking the loss giving up five earned runs on five hits while recording four outs.
Game Two: CARSON-NEWMAN 12, Mars Hill 4 (7 Innings)
The two clubs were scoreless after the first inning before Wroth blasted a solo homer over the right-field wall with one out to start the scoring. Alan Silva (Sevierville, Tenn.) three pitches later and came in to score on a base hit back up the middle by Genter.
For the first time on the day, the Lions took their first lead of the day thanks to a three-run bottom of the third. All of the runs came with two outs with a bases loaded walk and a two-run double down the left-field line by Austin Treadway put the Lions ahead 3-2.
The lead was short lived with the Eagles providing their own two-out flourish in the fourth. A single to left field by Charlie Brown (Sevierville, Tenn.) tied the margin and Genter put the visitors back on top with a double to left field.
Patience at the dish expanded the difference to three runs thanks to a pair of bases loaded walks by Griffin and Brown in the fifth flipping the tally to 6-3.
A base hit from Thompson in the sixth brought in a run and set the stage for Griffin to blast his second long ball of the day with a blast to straightaway center field moving the margin to 9-3.
A bases loaded walk to Thompson and a two-run double down the left-field line by Griffin ran the tally to 12-3 in C-N's final at-bat of the day in the seventh.
Mars Hill scored a run in the seventh but it was the only run that it mustered against Matt Bradley (Jefferson City, Tenn.) over four innings of work. The sophomore right-hander tallied his seventh save of the year firing the final four frames with five punch outs scattering four hits and two walks.
Griffin's final line read 2-for-4 with five RBIs and a run scored with Thompson adding a 2-for-3 effort with a couple RBIs crossing the plate twice.
Troy Hall allowed six earned runs over four innings of work walking five and allowing six hits to get hit with the loss for the Lions. Treadway and Scottie Lee each finished with a pair of hits accounting for half of the team's total in the category.
The two clubs will try to close out the series Monday afternoon for the final game of the series. A time has not been officially decided with rain expected Sunday.
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