JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With its sights set on winning a series against Lincoln Memorial for the first time in eight years, 25th-ranked Carson-Newman hosts its first South Atlantic Conference series this weekend starting with a twin-bill at noon on Saturday before concluding Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We have to do what we have been doing and try to get better each day," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "The mantra that these guys have come up with is one percent better each day. LMU is a fantastic club. Jeff Sziksai and his staff do a tremendous job. Between him and Aaron Rembert at Mars Hill, they are in my book with Connie Mack, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre because they do very well against us.
"It's going to be a very challenging game. We have to try to be the best version of ourselves and see what happens. That's all we can do and try to come out and compete and do the things they have been training to do. We don't want to worry about the things we can't control."
Dating back to last season, Carson-Newman (17-4, 2-0) has won six-straight SAC contests. The last time the team won six in-a-row versus league foes was Feb. 23 through March 9 against Brevard, Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill. To find a streak longer than six games, you have to go back over a decade when the Eagles won 12 consecutive. C-N swept the final conference series of 2005 against Wingate and started 2006 with sweeps of Presbyterian, Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne.
The clubs have met 67 times prior to this weekend with the Eagles winning just one of the last 12 affairs. That one win came in last season's series finale in 8-4 fashion after C-N dropped the first game of the doubleheader despite leading 10-2 after seven stanzas.
Lincoln Memorial (12-8, 4-2) has won each of the last six series dating back to April 15-16, 2011 when the Eagles escaped Harrogate by winning two of three outings. At home, C-N is 12-14 in the series having never won multiple games at home in the same year against LMU granted those opportunities started in 2010.
Last year the clubs met four time with two being decided by one run. The Railsplitters won the opening round affair of the SAC Tournament 9-2 at Smokies Stadium in the three versus four matchup. Tyler Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn.) proved to be the top offensive weapon going 8-for-15 with a homer and four runs scored.
LMU earned the league's postseason crown in 2018 for a second year in-a-row with a thrilling comeback 11-inning contest in a winner-take-all affair at Smokies Stadium to earn three first-place votes and be slotted second. The Railsplitters won their first game in the NCAA Tournament before dropping two straight to be eliminated.
Coming to Mossy Creek, the 'Splitters have won six of their last eight games after opening the season 6-6. The team has already played 14 road games and will play six of their next seven on the road before playing 15 of their final 21 at Lamar Hennon Field.
Coach Jeff Sziksai's unit has been at least .500 every season since 2013 but the team is 72-81-1 in road games over that span compared to a 105-43 tally when playing in Harrogate.
When discussing the team as a whole, eyes immediately turn to senior left-hander Ethan Elliott, the 2018 SAC Pitcher of the Year and SAC Tournament MVP. In his career, the hurler is 28-10 with 313 strikeouts in 294 1/3 innings with a 3.30 earned run average.
Friday will be the fourth time he pitches against the Eagles as he is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 18 strikeouts after going 2-0 with 17 punch outs in 16 innings over two starts in 2018.
He is coming off of the worst start of his career giving up eight earned runs over five innings in an 11-6 loss to Catawba last week. It came a week after going 8 1/3 innings racking up 17 K's, two shy of the SAC record, and zero walks at Anderson.
As for the rest of the group on the mound, the team is seventh in the SAC giving up just shy of 10 hits per game. Matt Mullenbach is next in line ranking third in the league in strikeouts having punched out at least seven in four of his five outings.
Chris Salvey ranks third in the country in RBIs having driven in a league-high 27 runs. He has been shutout in the category in back-to-back games after recording at least one in 13 of the prior 14. Despite his efforts, LMU is fifth in the SAC in scoring at 6.6 per game.
Six players have seen time in all 20 games this season with four hitting at least .300 on the season. Of the top eight in at-bats, three are hitting .238 or worse this season.
Every game this weekend will be available with audio and video options on cneagles.com/live as the Eagle Sports Network brings you a dazzling description of the action.
- CN -