VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (26-9) opens up its quest for a third consecutive South Atlantic Conference tournament championship Saturday at Whitley Field in Salisbury, N.C.
The Eagles square off against a Queens (22-14) Royals club that the Eagles have faced in two of the last four SAC Tournaments.
"Pitching will be key for us," Carson-Newman head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Lacie and Allison have both done a good job of keeping the ball down and moving, especially Allison in our final doubleheader. They'll have to keep that up and we'll have to continue to play good defense behind them."
Carson-Newman is going for a three-peat at the SAC tournament for the second time in school history and the third time in league history. The Eagles won three straight tournament titles from 94-96. Lenoir-Rhyne holds the SAC record for consecutive tournament titles, winning four from 2010-13.
Carson-Newman is 1-1 all-time in the SAC tournament against Queens. The Eagles won the last postseason meeting 4-3 in 2017. Queens was victorious 7-6 in 2015.
The matchup pits two regionally-ranked foes against one another. The Eagles check in in third in the second iteration of the region rankings, while Queens is in fifth.
The Eagles and Royals split their regular season meetings. It was Queens who handed Carson-Newman its first loss of the season after the Eagles rattled off 13 wins to open up the season. The Royals prevailed in game one of the series 1-0 in walk-off fashion after back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the seventh from Grace Vochar and Cierra Robinson.
All-SAC pitcher Courtney Pearson headlines the Royals. Pearson has the fourth best ERA in the league with a tally of 2.20. She has struck out 125, also the fourth best figure in the conference, and has the sixth-lowest batting average against in the conference at .215.
"Pearson is obviously a good pitcher, you don't have one of the lowest ERA's in the league if you're not." Graves said. "She throws a change up as well as anybody. You can't pick it up easily. We'll have to be quick with our hands to put that ball back into play."
Pearson worked a four-hit shutout in the first meeting this year.
Carson-Newman will have to get knocks off her if they are to impact the school record book.
The Eagles are on the cusp of breaking some school records. Carson-Newman has hit 44 home runs this season. That's the fourth most for a single-season in school history. The Eagles only need to belt five more to match the 2015 team's school record of 49.
Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) won the league's batting title with a .442 batting average, that's the 10th highest for a single season in program history. She is also in position to move up a few career stat charts.
With 40 career doubles, Fiessinger ranks ninth all-time. She needs one more to match Caitlyn Lance for the eighth spot in program history. In terms of home runs, Fiessinger has 25 bombs. That's the seventh most in school history. Her next home run will tie her with Lisa Rogers for sixth all-time.
Carson-Newman is looking to become the three-seed since 2015. Catawba won the tournament that year on the arm of Carly Tysinger. The three seed has played an extra-innings contest in the opening round in back-to-back years.
First pitch between Carson-Newman and Queens is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.