VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After a two-week layoff, seventh-ranked Carson-Newman (13-0) gets back to action with its league opener at Queens (10-4) Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Park Road Park.
"We gave the girls a few days off for spring break," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "We've been back at it and it's been great to get back on the dirt from where our field has finally dried out. That's helped with our preparation."
Carson-Newman is off to the third-best start in school history and has the third-highest national ranking as a result.
Carson-Newman's 13-game winning streak to start the year is the program's third-longest season-opening winning streak. The 1994 team started 19-0, while the 1993 team ran through the regular season unbeaten, 24-0, before falling to Elon in the SAC tournament for the best start in program history. The 24-game winning streak in 1993 is tied for the program's longest winning streak of any kind. The 1990 team also rattled off 24 straight wins.
The matchup pits two teams against one another that both made last year's Southeast Regional. Both teams are coming off spring break layoffs as well. Queens was able to get back to action Thursday with a sweep of Augusta, the Royals first games in a couple weeks.
"Hopefully, we're the team that's not as rusty," Graves said. "Our girls work hard even though we're not playing games. Honestly, from where the schedule has been the way it has, hopefully we won't be too affected by a layoff."
Carson-Newman has been elite at responding to opponent's scoring. Of the Eagles 79 runs this year, 36 have come in unanswered fashion after an opponent has taken a lead on C-N.
To further that, the Eagles have been dynamite through the middle innings of games. C-N has outscored teams 54-4 through innings three through six.
Opponents have yet to score runs in the fourth or fifth innings on the Eagles.
Carson-Newman has been clobbering home runs left and right to open up this season. The Eagles have drilled 22 home runs, the third most in the country this year. The Eagles are on pace to best the 2013 team's school-record 49 dingers. As a result of the love of the long ball, the Eagles are fourth in the country in slugging percentage with a mark of .590.
The Carson-Newman outfield, in particular, loves the long ball. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.), Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) have combined for 13 of the Eagles bombs.
These are Queens' first home games in more than a month. The Royals last played at Park Road Park Feb. 14. The Royals are 4-0 at home this year and have a pair of run-rule wins in their friendly confines.
The Royals are paced by Courtney Pearson in the circle. She is 6-1 this year with a 1.75 ERA. In all six of her starts, Pearson has gone a complete game. She has 55 Ks against just 16 walks.
For live coverage of the contests, follow @cnathletics on Twitter.