MARION, N.C. – For the final time in 2019, Carson-Newman hits the road with a three-game series against first-year South Atlantic Conference program Queens slated to start at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Big League Camp. The series is slated to finish on Monday at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. from Kannapolis and Intimidators Stadium.
Needing one more win to notch 400 victories at Carson-Newman (24-17, 6-11), Tom Griffin would become the fourth coach in the history of the SAC to hit that overall total. Jim Gantt at Catawba is the all-time leader with over 800, Doug Jones of Tusculum had 676 and Bill Nash at Wingate piled up 403.
A series win would solidify a winning record in SAC road games for a second-straight season after the team went 10-5 in 2018 holding a 4-4 mark. It comes after the 2017 campaign where the group went 0-for-11 away from home. The last time the program had a pair of winning seasons in conference road efforts came back in 2010 and 2011 when the unit went 7-5 each season.
"We try to work on the mental toughness and being prepared," Griffin said. "We don't look whether it's a home or away game but what we are trying to do each day and how we are going to compete. I think having veteran guys help. One of the things we are doing different this year is we aren't getting to the park too early. We are trying to get there, get loose and play."
Of the eight road games, the Eagles have produced double-digit hits six times and three double-figure scoring efforts where the team is hitting .336. Lead-off hitters are getting on base at a .485 clip. The hurlers are posting an ERA of nearly two runs lower with opponents hitting .287.
This weekend is the first season that C-N and Queens (11-25, 4-14) meet on the baseball diamond with it being the second year of baseball and first in the SAC for the Royals program. The last time that league welcomed a new member was in 2014 when Coker, fresh off of a region title and trip to the Division II World Series, joined the conference.
The Cobras finished in last place in the standings that season but took two out of three games on its home field against the Eagles on March 14-15, 2014. To find the last series victory over a newly-minted SAC foe you have to go back to 2011 when Anderson entered the league. C-N swept the three-game on Feb. 24-25 outscoring the Trojans 17-11.
Overall against first-year members of the SAC, the Eagles are 13-2 with sweeps of Newberry in 1998, Tusculum in 2000, Brevard in 2008 since the conference first started sponsoring baseball during the 1990 season.
Queens is led by 1993 American Cy Young Award Winner Jack McDowell with experience managing minor teams in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The former Stanford Cardinal was the fifth overall pick in the 1987 draft, the same that produced Ken Griffey Jr. as the top pick. His Cy Young season came a year after finishing second as he held off five-time award winner Randy Johnson to win in 1993 after going 22-10 with a 3.37 ERA in 256 2/3 innings.
The Royals salvaged the final game of a three-game road series with 14th-ranked Catawba last weekend in 5-2 fashion. At the plate, the team is posting just under six runs per game this year having struck out 171 times in 18 SAC games this season.
UNC Charlotte transfer Noah Jones is the second-best hitter in the league with a .421 batting average on the year with his 10 homers ranking third. He is riding a 16-game hitting streak with 10 multi-hit games going 32-for-64 with six long balls 17 RBIs, 14 of which have come in the last four.
The club can steal bases with 78 on the year to rank 20th nationally and third in the league. Dominic Ford leads that group with 21, third-best in the SAC and top 20 in Division II. Eleven of those steals came in February as he has one over his last eight games.
McDowell's crew is the third-worst defensive team in the country with a .922 fielding percentage with 21 errors over the last eight games. The team has 54 errors over a stretch where it has a miscue in 19 of the last 20 games with the lone exception coming at Limestone on March 26. There have been 25 outings with at least two miscues.
On the mound, the team is towards the bottom in almost every category with a 6.35 ERA sitting eighth walking over five batters per game. The weekend rotation has shuffled by Tanner Jacobson went eight innings in the finale over the Indians with two K's allowing four base runners and two runs. He has a 1.95 ERA in eight appearances this year.
"Offensively they are very aggressive and a very athletic team," Griffin said. "Their arms are good. Defensively, you never know. They are playing in their home park so you are going to feel good about. All they have to do is be clean in three games and you have a really tough game. We aren't looking past anybody. All we are trying to do is to compete with ourselves and be the best version of ourselves. We can't worry about other teams and what they can or can't do."
All three games this weekend will air on cneagles.com/live with an audio stream available courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network will live updates available on Twitter by following @CNathletics.
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