JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (28-18, 7-11 South Atlantic Conference) takes aim at clinching a spot in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championships on what sets up to be a wild closing weekend to the SAC softball season.
The Eagles travel to Catawba College to face the Catawba Indians (19-24, 7-11 SAC) Saturday at 1 p.m. from Whitley Field. Carson-Newman hasn't won a game at Catawba since 2010 when it swept a doubleheader 6-4 and 7-0 over the Indians. Since then, the Eagles have lost seven straight at the home of the Indians.
The Eagles can ill-afford to get swept at Catawba again. All 11 teams that play softball in the SAC are still able to make the league tournament. Carson-Newman has never missed a South Atlantic Conference Tournament and is the league's leader in tournament titles with 10.
The good news for the Eagles is that C-N controls its own destiny. If the Eagles sweep the Indians, they're in. If they don't it can get really dicey and complex. The Eagles can finish as high as sixth. They can also finish last.
The week before SAC tournaments, the league office issues a tiebreak scenarios document to the coaches and administrators around the league.
After a yeoman's effort by league commissioner Patrick Britz and associate commissioner Eliane Kebbe, the league sent out a five-page, 3,230-word document that includes a whopping 71 tiebreak scenarios. There is even the potential for a six-way tie. No one in the league office or the league can recall that being a thing for any sport in the last decade.
Carson-Newman and Catawba are both tied for the final two spots in the league standings and could get in by splitting their doubleheader as long as Lincoln Memorial, Tusculum and Mars Hill all get swept. The Railsplitters, Pioneers and Lions are all tied for ninth in the standings with 6-12 record.
In fact, the Eagles could still make the tournament if they got swept, as long as LMU, Mars Hill and Tusculum did too.
LMU plays second-place Coker. Mars Hill plays host to a Wingate team that's won eight straight and Tusculum plays host to a Queens team that just fell out of the top 25 and is 3-7 over its last 10 games.
Ties are broken first via head-to-head record among tied teams, then comparison of each team's record against all remaining seeds in the tournament, starting with the highest seed down through the bottom until the tie is broken. If that doesn't do the trick, the commissioner flips a coin.
Head-to-head Mars Hill will win the tiebreaker over Carson-Newman because the Lions have wins over Coker and Anderson, Carson-Newman doesn't.
A tie between Carson-Newman and Tusculum would go Carson-Newman's way thanks to C-N's sweep of Wingate.
Finally one can't even yet determine the tiebreaker between Carson-Newman and Lincoln Memorial because seed order hasn't been set yet, however, how things set up favors LMU. The Railsplitters would need to beat Coker for this scenario to work, which would flip that tiebreaker toward the Railsplitters. LMU also owns a win over Anderson, which Carson-Newman doesn't have. For the tiebreaker to turn in Carson-Newman's favor, the Eagles would need Wingate or Newberry to rise above the Cobras and Trojans in the league standings.
Most multi-team tiebreaks don't favor Carson-Newman. The only three-way ties that could possibly see Carson-Newman make the tournament are with Catawba and LMU (and that's still up in the air), as well as LMU and Mars Hill (and that's only because the tiebreaker can't be determined yet).
Catawba has been struggling of late. The Indians are 1-9 in their last 10 games and have dropped seven straight dating back to April 3 and a 5-2 win at Newberry in game one of a doubleheader.
The Indians have the lowest scoring offense in the league. Catawba has especially struggled at the plate in the month of April. After hitting .290 for the first two months of the season, Catawba is batting .226 for the month of April. Furthermore, the Indians get on base just 27.5 percent of the time. The Indians have 12 extra base hits and have driven in 16 runs. Catawba has struck out 41 times in 212 at-bats.
Carson-Newman is 4-6 over its last 10 games and is hitting a respectable .309 for the month of April. However, Carson-Newman's team ERA for April sits at 3.59.
Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) and Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) have both especially come on as the season has hit its stretch run. Fiessinger's hitting 4.19 over the Eagles last 12 contests with six doubles, a trip and two home runs.
Meanwhile, Caldwell's hitting .467 for the month of April. She has 14 hits in 30 at-bats with six doubles, a dinger and 12 runs batted in.
First pitch between the Eagles and Indians is set for 1 p.m. Follow @cnathletics on Twitter for live updates to the game.