JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Untimely hitting and a trio of errors were the difference on Friday as Carson-Newman dropped game one of the three-game set to No. 9 ranked Newberry 4-3 at The Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.
The Eagles (22-16, 5-10 SAC) got things started with a bang however as Ethan Goforth led off the first inning with his tenth bomb of the season giving his team the early advantage. Tom Griffin's squad was held scoreless for five-consecutive innings before striking for two in the seventh frame on an RBI-double from Brendan Campbell who later scored on a passed ball.
C-N had their chances in the eighth down by a run with two runners in scoring position and one away. The Wolves (32-8, 15-1 SAC) Quinton Driggers struck out the next two batters en route to his fourth save of the campaign after relieving Charlie Fessler (5-3) whose day ended after six innings of five-hit ball. The Eagles were 0-of-6 with runners in scoring position on the afternoon as Newberry collected its 12th-straight South Atlantic Conference victory.
"Against a team like that you've got to play the best defense you can," Griffin said. "It goes back to that freebie war, take care of the baseball. There were some situations where you thought it was a base hit but their guys made some great defensive plays. You have to overcome the miscues and we had some runners on but unfortunately, we didn't get those hits.
"I thought our guys competed well. We wanted them to be engaged with each other and two, compete every pitch. Without a doubt, they did that. We just have to make one or two more plays against a club like that."
A pair of errors in the second inning and a third in the following frame helped Newberry put three runners across the plate as Coach Russell Tripplet's group never looked back despite a strong outing on the mound from Greg Valentine (7-2) which included a string of 13 consecutive Wolves retired.
The Knoxville, Tenn. native made his program-record 89th appearance in the start going seven strong innings while allowing five hits and striking out a pair. Just one of the four runs scored on the senior was marked earned as Danton Hyman tacked on an RBI-single to make it 4-1 in the seventh. The performance for Valentine matched a career-high in innings pitched in a single game.
"I told Greg that was the best start I've ever seen him have although he came out on the losing end," Griffin said. "I thought his composure and ability to go as long as he did says a lot about the outing being this late in the year as well against a team who is constantly going to sit there and battle you. He's an outstanding young man and a quality student-athlete that we look for here."
Goforth had his 13th multi-hit day following a two-out double in the seventh inning finishing the day two-for-five at the plate. The bottom third of the order ahead of the sophomore catcher went one-of-eleven at the dish. The league's leading hitter in Tyler Thompson chipped in his 14th two-hit performance of the season with a pair of singles.
Games two and three of the series are slated for Saturday, April 6 at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Both games will air on the Eagle Sports Network in both audio and video formats by visiting cneagles.com/live for the links to the format of your choosing.