SALISBURY, N.C. – Looking to get back in the win column in South Atlantic Conference action, Carson-Newman hits the road to face perennial league champion and 18th-ranked Catawba for a three-game series. Game one of the series is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. with a doubleheader on Sunday at 1 p.m.
"When you mention Catawba, you mention character, you mention about how they play the game the right way," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "Coach Gantt has set the standard within our conference about who you are trying to get to. It's always a challenge and to do it at their place makes it more difficult.
"We have to make sure on the mound that we are coming out and competing and can get our starters a little farther along because I think that helps at all times. Offensively we have a couple guys we have to get back on track. We've had a couple days to build the confidence. What has happened in the past completely gets forgotten and all you worry about is the next pitch."
Ethan Goforth (Blacksburg, Va.) has been crushing the ball over the last week hitting home runs in four of his last five games. He is the first Eagle to do that since Greg Jones from March 28 to April 1, 2017. The last time a C-N player hit five over a six-game period was current assistant coach Brandon Roberts hitting four over a three-game sequence and five in six contests from Feb. 20-28, 2016.
Since joining Division II, Carson-Newman (18-7, 2-3) is 37-74-1 against teams ranked in the top 30 in any division including a 23-44 mark under Griffin. The Eagles went 4-4 against ranked in 2018 after recording a 2-9 mark over the prior two campaigns.
Since 1990, the Orange and Blue has not played any team more than the 106 games against Catawba (20-7, 6-3) with the Indians holding a 63-43 lead having won 22 of the 35 affairs played at Newman Park winning each of the last four series in the Tar Heel State.
The two programs have played a three-game series in Salisbury on 10 occasions with C-N winning the series four times. The Eagles swept a three-game slate on March 16-17, 1996 while taking two of three in 1998, 2003 and 2007.
Since earning the series win in 2007, Carson-Newman is 2-8 on the road against Catawba with its last win coming on March 31, 2012 against a No. 15 Indians group after being swept in the last series in 2017 as C-N yielded double-digit runs in each game of the set and was outscored 34-15.
Catawba has entered a game against Carson-Newman ranked 24 times prior this weekend winning 19 but the Eagles have won two of the last three, both coming in the conference tournament in 2013 and 2017.
Last season the clubs squared off four times with the Eagles taking the first game 6-5 before dropping the next three including being eliminated from the SAC Tournament on April 29, 7-0. John Sharpe (Franklin, Tenn.) was the top bat for C-N going 6-for-11 with two homers and four RBIs. The rest of the team combined for just 15 knocks.
On the mound, six returners logged time on the rubber adding up to 18 2/3 innings allowing six earned runs striking out 11 batters against a unit that scored 49 runs and hit .349 in the contests.
The six-time reigning regular-season titleholders, Catawba, was once again picked to win the league earning eight of the 11 first-place votes. The Indians were shut out of the NCAA postseason for the first time since 2013. Overall the team has won 13 regular-season titles, seven more than the next closest team, Wingate's six.
Coach Jim Gantt's team started the year 12-1 and is 15-3 inside of the friendly confines to begin the year. After this weekend's series, the club goes on the road for an eight-game stint to close out March.
The home versus road splits have been glaring thus far with the team hitting 84 points higher at home averaging 7.9 runs at Newman Park compared to 5.5 as a visitor. On the other side of the coin, the pitching staff has been consistent with nearly no change in ERA.
As a team, the Indians are in the top 10 in the country in nine categories leading the nation in doubles with 60 and double plays turned with 25. Only Hawaii Pacific has more hits and Cal Poly Ponoma is the squad with more shutouts than its three.
Hunter Shepherd is doing it all so far with a team-leading six homers of the unit's 18, and driving in 27 on a .352 batting average. He has excelled on the mound with three wins and a save over seven appearances with a 3.16 ERA.
Stay tuned to @CNathletics for the latest information on the Eagles including links to video, live stats and updates from the diamond over the weekend.
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