VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (15-6, 2-6 South Atlantic Conference) will try to put a halt to a seven-game home losing streak against SAC foes when the Eagles challenge Coker (24-8, 3-2) in a league doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.
It's been nearly a calendar year since the Eagles' last home win against SAC opposition. The Eagles downed Mars Hill 2-0 on April 2 last year before falling to the Lions in the nightcap of that twinbill 10-9. Since then, the Eagles have been swept in three consecutive doubleheaders by Lenoir-Rhyne (2018), Lincoln Memorial (2019) and Catawba (2019).
To put a halt to that, skid Carson-Newman will have to bring its offense back to life.
"Offensively, we have lived off of Lacie Rinus, Abby Fiessinger and KaraLynne Levi," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "We need the rest of our lineup to produce, it's something we haven't had happen since February. We have to learn better pitch selection and doing what's comfortable to us."
Indeed, that trio has been strong at the plate for the Eagles. Fiessinger is hitting .441 – the third highest total in the league. Rinus has a .321 tally, while Levi bats .309. Levi had recently brought her average north of .340, but a current 0-for-5 trend at the plate sent her back south of .310.
Carson-Newman's offense has been mired in the offensive doldroms since the month of March started. The Eagles hit .353 for the month of February and were averaging 6.81 runs per game. In March, Carson-Newman is hitting .210 as a team and averaging 2.9 runs per game. Carson-Newman's .210 average is its lowest monthly total since hitting .231 for the month of April in 2016.
A big portion of the Eagles' problems have stemmed from struggles with runners on base.
The Eagles are just 13-for-67, .194 at the plate with runners in scoring position in March. Furthermore, with a runner on any base, the Eagles are only hitting .180.
Furthering frustrations, Carson-Newman's opponents have taken advantage of the Eagles when they've been in similar situations. C-N foes are hitting .291 with runners on base and .289 with RISP for the month.
Carson-Newman will have to overcome that recent trend against a Coker team that knows how to pitch. Utilizing a platoon style that has only produced four complete games, Coker has a league-best 2.09 team ERA. That's a top 20 lowest ERA nationally. Opponent's hit a paltry .206 off the Cobras arms, also the best figure in the league.
"They do a nice job of utilizing different pitchers that bring different things to the table," Graves said. "Taylor Forehand is a fantastic drop ball pitcher. They have others who work the corners very well. It'll be on us to adjust when they do switch things up."
Isabelle Mullen, Taylor Forehand and Jordan Goodman all have ERA's on the southside of 2.00 with at least 25 innings pitched. With the inclusion of senior hurler Christine Carver, all four primary hurlers on the Coker staff have a strikeout per seven inning average on the plus side of five.
Carver, Mullen and Forehand have all struck out at least 50.
Offensively, Freshman Chloe Pelham has been on a tear of late for the Cobras. Her .475 average is second in the league while her .517 on-base percentage leads the South Atlantic Conference.
Coker has dominated the regular season series of late. The Cobras have taken five straight meetings in the regular season. However, the Eagles have owned the Cobras come tournament time, winning four straight from the Cobras in postseason play.
First pitch between the Eagles and Cobras is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network online at cneagles.com/live.