VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
VIDEO: Lacie Rinus Interview
VIDEO: Allison Rager Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-0) blasted five home runs and rode power pitching efforts to 8-0 and 6-1 wins over Converse (1-5) Saturday afternoon at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex.
Carson-Newman starts 6-0 for the first time since 2014 while winning its home opener for a 17th consecutive season.
"We continued hitting, that's certainly positive," head coach Michael Graves said. "We also had two very good pitching performances. That will certainly help things out."
Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was 3-for-6 at the plate with five RBI and two home runs in her return from the flu. She also notched a win in game one in the circle as a part of a shared four-hit shutout with Abby Hicks (Knoxville, Tenn.).
"Lacie has had the flu, so she hadn't even pitched in practice in a week and a half," Graves said. "Today was the first time she had thrown a ball in a week and a half. I don't know if we can help her out with pitcher of the week, but she certainly turned in a performance that is player of the week worthy."
Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.), Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.) all also hit home runs. Rager was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Cooper and Seay both turned in multi-hit efforts. In addition to her inside-the-park home run, Seay also hit her first career triple.
"It's always good, because they practice hard," Graves said. "A lot of time, they don't get the reward that others get because of their hard work. It's always nice to see them get some time on the field, and there were some pleasant surprises out there today."
GAME ONE: Carson-Newman 8, Converse 0 (five innings)
It took until the second, but Carson-Newman came through with a big base knock in the second. The Eagles got rolling with singles from Janelle Benzick (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and a walk from Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.). Lacie Rinus smacked a bases-clearing triple to the right-center alleyway to put C-N up 3-0.
Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) padded the advantage with a sacrifice fly into foul ground in left that plated Rinus and put C-N up 4-0.
Carson-Newman struck again in the bottom of the third. Cooper smashed a 3-0 pitch over the wall in left center field. The solo blast was the 10th home run of her career and Carson-Newman's first home run in the last six seasons off a 3-0 pitch.
The Eagles kept it rolling in the fourth. Rinus led off the frame with a solo bomb to center that set C-N up 6-0. The Eagles used good situational hitting to score the final two runs and secure the run-rule win. A double from Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) and a single up the middle from Rager gave C-N a pair of runners in scoring position. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) produced the first run with a sacrifice fly into foul ground in left.
Converse threatened in the top of the fifth to extend the game. The Valkyries had runners on the corners with two out, but reliever Abby Hicks (Knoxville, Tenn.) shut the door with a ground out to polish off the win.
Rinus got the win to start 1-0 for her junior year. She went 4.0 innings with two hits allowed. Rinus fanned two.
Savannah Rogers took the loss to fall to 1-2. She gave up 10 hits and eight runs in three innings.
GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 6, Converse 1
Carson-Newman jump started its offense in the third. Valeries Seay (Cross Plains, Tenn.) led off the inning with her first career triple. Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) brought her in on an RBI infield single to short. After Sohm stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, Fiessinger drove her home with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to put C-N up 2-0.
Rager helped out her own cause with a two-out solo blast to center that gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead. The bomb was the fourth of her senior year.
Carson-Newman got some two-out magic in the bottom of the fourth. Ashtyn Patterson (Andersonville, Tenn.) wore a pitch on her noggin to give C-N a two-out base runner. Seay took advantage. She banged one off the wall in centerfield. The ball caromed away from centerfielder Marissa Martin. Seay raced home with a two-RBI inside-the-park home run in hand. That put C-N in front 5-0.
The Eagles got a more conventional home run in the fifth. Lacie Rinus belted one beyond the wall in right center for her second knock of the day. The lead-off bomb gave C-N a 6-0 advantage.
Converse got an unearned run in the top of the seventh off a Gabrielle Cuevas infield single through the left side to set the final margin at 6-1.
Rager hurled a season-high eight strikeouts in the win to improve to 5-0 on the year. She didn't allow a free pass on the day. The only run that the Valks scored off her was unearned.
Hailey Spitler took the loss to drop to 0-2. She gave up six hits and six runs.
The Eagles stay at home Wednesday against Concord. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. Coverage of the twinbill against the Mountain Lions will be available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live.