VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
VIDEO: Haley Caldwell Interview
Mars Hill, N.C. – Carson-Newman (24-9, 9-9 South Atlantic Conference) and Mars Hill (23-18, 7-11 SAC) combined to clobber eight home runs in a doubleheader split Tuesday afternoon at Ponder Field.
Mars Hill won game one 8-2 on the back of a three-run home run and a grand slam before Carson-Newman rallied for a 6-4 win in the nightcap with three home runs in four at-bats in a four-run fifth.
"We took some big powerful swings today," Carson-Newman head softball coach Michael Graves said. "I'm still not happy with our approach in the box though. We're still swinging at pitches that the opposing pitcher wants us to swing at instead of the pitches that are the best for us to swing at.
Carson-Newman pitching had to deal with the league's second-best offense in terms of batting average and walked a combined 13 trying to pitch around the Lions. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) issued a career-high seven free passes in a loss in game one, before Rinus walked the second most in her career, six, in the win in the nightcap. The seven walks are tied for the seventh most in school history for a single game, and the most since Rinus issued eight free passes against Anderson last year.
GAME ONE: Mars Hill 8, Carson-Newman 2
Carson-Newman used the long ball to grab an early lead. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) tanked her seventh home run of the year on a frozen rope down the left field line. The one-out solo shot came in the top of the second off a 1-1 pitch to give C-N a 1-0 lead.
The love of the long ball came into play again in the fourth. After Mars Hill pitcher Casey Stanek had retired seven straight after Rager's dinger, Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) broke up the streak in a major way. The sophomore smashed her seventh home run of the year over the left field wall. The two-out blast pushed Carson-Newman's lead to 2-0.
Mars Hill would counter with long-ball tactics of its own in the bottom of the fourth. A two-out walk to Krista Romine and a two-out bloop single beyond the second base bag for Ashley Evans set the table for Taylor Nilsson. The freshman lofted her second home run of the season over the wall in left center to give Mars Hill a 3-2 lead.
The Lions used the long ball to extend the lead in the bottom of the sixth. The Lions loaded the bases with three straight singles. Ragan Broome tomahawked a pitch down the left field line for a grand slam that put Mars Hill up 7-2 on the first pitch of her at bat. A bases-loaded walk to Ashley Evans extended the Lions lead to 8-2 and set the final margin.
Rager took the loss to fall to 12-6. The eight runs she allowed are a season high. She also issued a career-high seven walks.
Casey Stanek took the win to improve to 15-7. She scattered six hits and gave up the two home runs, but didn't issue a walk and struck out two.
GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 6, Mars Hill 4
The Lions punched a one-way ticket too tater town to grab a lead in game two. After C-N starter Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) had retired six straight, Broome clobbered her second home run of the double header with a two-out solo shot down the left field line. Broome took a 2-1 pitch out of the park for her 13th home run of the year.
The Lions added two runs the next inning with a sacrifice fly from Evans and an RBI single through the left side from Broome.
Carson-Newman countered in the top of the fifth. Ashtyn Patterson (Andersonville, Tenn.) got plunked to lead off the inning, then Rinus took the first pitch she saw over the wall in left to pull C-N within a run.
Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) then tied it with a blast to center field before Caldwell gave the Eagles the lead with a moon shot to left center. When the dust settled, Carson-Newman led 4-3 off its three home runs in four at bats.
Mars Hill tied things back up in the bottom of the fifth. Two walks gave the Lions two base runners, then Jessica Harris reached on an error at second that kicked into center and allowed Broome to score an unearned run on the error.
The Eagles retook the lead in the sixth. Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) doubled in a flex-running Valerie Seay (Cross Plains, Tenn.) to push Carson-Newman in front 5-4 with the two-out knock over the head of the leftfielder.
Carson-Newman added insurance in the top of the seventh with a two-out rally. Caldwell roped a two-out double to left center to set the table for Rager. She singled her in on a bouncer that squeezed past the Lions' shortstop. Rager's two-out RBI gave C-N a two-run, 6-4 cushion that would stand as the final margin.
Rinus got the win to improve to 11-3 in the circle. She gave up seven hits and four runs, three of which were earned.
Casey Stanek took the loss in relief for the Lions. She worked 2.1 innings, giving up five hits and three runs, all earned.
Carson-Newman was 4-for-8 with RISP and 5-for-12 with two outs in the nightcap. The Eagles stranded 10 Lions base runners. Mars Hill was 1-for-11 with RISP.
The Eagles wrap up the regular season Friday at 2 p.m. against Newberry. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live.