VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (18-7, 5-7 South Atlantic Conference) gets its rematch from last year's Southeast Regional against Lenoir-Rhyne (24-10, 7-2 SAC) Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bears Field.
The Bears lead the league at 7-2 and were this year's preseason favorites.
The matchup pits Carson-Newman against the team that eliminated it from last year's Southeast Regional. The Bears rung the Eagles bell with a 17-0 run-rule win out of the tournament. The loss featured ignomious school records for largest margin of defeat and runs allowed. Lenoir-Rhyne also had 18 hits, the second most the Eagles' have allowed in program history.
With eight straight wins, Lenoir-Rhyne has the longest active win streak in the South Atlantic Conference and the second longest in the region. Only Georgia College, whom Carson-Newman swept back on Feb. 2 has won more consecutive games in the Southeast. The Bobcats have prevailed in 12 straight.
Carson-Newman comes into the twinbill fresh off its first SAC sweep in more than a year. The Eagles dominated Tusculum, tallying 23 runs across 23 hits in the doubleheader. The 17 runs C-N scored against the Pioneers are the third-most in a South Atlantic Conference game in school history.
"We've continued to work on hitting. I was very impressed with the swings we've been taking, especially in practice this past week," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "We have to build off the Tusculum games moving forward. We've been talking for a couple weeks that we needed to have a game to get us going. We've had the game, now we've got to keep the hits rolling."
Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) both stand poised to move up the school's double charts. Both players enter the contests with 37 career doubles, one more and they can tie Lisa Rogers for ninth all-time in program history. Fiessinger is also in a tie for ninth in program history for career home runs with 21. Her next bomb will move her into a tie for eighth with All-American Elayna Siebert.
Fiessinger has been a tear of late for C-N. The junior outfielder has hit successfully in seven of the Eagles last eight games. Furthermore, she has tallied multi-hit efforts in five of those contests. Fiessinger has brought her average up 48 points to .451 in the last 10 days. Her .451 is the second highest average in the SAC. Her .817 slugging percentage leads the league, while her 13 doubles rank third in the conference.
Fiessinger and the rest of the Eagles will look to let the good times roll against Lenoir-Rhyne's pitching duo of Brandi Parks and Emily Kenley. Both players were named All-SAC last year.
Parks has struck out 100 batters and opponents are hitting just .240 off her.
"Shena always has a good complete team," Graves said. "I think both of us would like to be hitting the ball a bit better than we are. With what Kenley, Parks, Rager and Rinus have done in the circle of late, this might turn into a pitcher's duel."
First pitch between the Eagles and Bears is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. Follow along with @cnathletics on Twitter for live updates from the game.