JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (14-3, 1-3 South Atlantic Conference) opened up the 2019 season hot. The ninth-ranked Eagles won 11 straight games to open the month of February while hitting .353 at the plate and scoring 6.81 runs per game.
However, since March came around on the calendar, it's like Carson-Newman's bats have been dunked in a bucket of ice water. The Eagles will try to warm those bats back up when Catawba (14-11, 2-2 SAC) comes to town for a SAC twin bill Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex.
"Catawba's pitchers are better than what LMU's were, at least statistically," head softball coach Michael Graves. "If we couldn't hit LMU, what are we going to be like against Catawba. We're obviously very capable with the bats as we showed against a tough schedule in the month of February. However, we're overthinking things here as we're in this lull instead of doing what we know how to do."
While the Eagles are 3-3 for the month of March, the wins have come in low scoring games. The Eagles have scored more than three just once in the month, a 7-3 win over Queens. Carson-Newman is hitting .195 as a team and averaging 2.5 runs per game for the month.
The Eagles' recent swoon has obviously extended to players as well. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.), Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.) have been to the plate 10 or more times and all have only registered one hit. Rager is 1-for-17 (.059), Sohm is 1-for12 (.083) and Seay is 1-for-10 (.100).
KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is the only player on the roster who is hitting north of .300 for the month. Levi is 5-for-13 (.385) at the plate with three extra-base hits and two dingers.
While Carson-Newman has faltered a smidge at the plate, it's defense has been fantastic for the month. The Eagles have played error free for six straight games. Carson-Newman hasn't played error free in five straight games since 2015, when the Eagles didn't make an error from March 30 - April 4.
Carson-Newman hasn't played error free in six straight games since at least 2008 - as far back as game-by-game digital records go. In fact, the Eagles have put together just two five-game streaks of error-free ball since 2008.
Barring the resurgence of the lumber at the plate, Carson-Newman will look to rely on that elite defense and pitching to snap a five-game skid at home to SAC schools. Carson-Newman has been swept in back-to-back home doubleheaders by nationally-ranked SAC schools. No. 23 LMU this year and No. 11 Lenoir-Rhyne last year. Including a 10-9 loss to Mars Hill in game two of a doubleheader last year, the Eagles last home win over a SAC school came on April 4, 2-0 over the Lions.
Catawba is a different team away from home. The Indians are 9-5 in Salisbury and 4-6 in true road games. The Indians hit .313 at home and .229 on the road.
Reigning SAC Player of the Week Carlee Brawley headlines the Indians. A sophomore infielder, Brawley helped the Catawba Indians to five wins on the week, including a sweep of Tusculum in their SAC opener. For the week, the Mooresville, N.C. native hit .435 with 10 hits, batted in three runners, and scored three runs of her own. Two of her RBI were game-winners. Brawley also doubled and walked twice in Catawba's eight games.
First pitch between the Eagles and Indians is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 12:55 p.m. online at cneagles.com/live.