VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (28-10) begins its 15th match into NCAA postseason play in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in program history, the 21st-ranked and second-seeded Eagles will play the role of regional host when they take on seventh-seeded Anderson (32-20) Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m.
The matchup represents a 12-day-old rematch of the highest scoring South Atlantic Conference Championship in league history. Anderson won its second SAC tournament championship in riveting fashion, 13-11 over the Eagles. C-N erased a seven-run deficit to take a 9-7 lead into the sixth inning, only for the Trojans to score six more times en route to a 13-11 win.
"This is exciting," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Everyone from administration, to the maintenance folks getting the field ready, they've done a great job to represent this university on a national stage well. We haven't played in a couple weeks, but we're ready to go."
The meeting kicks off the four-team sub-regional. The winner plays Friday at 10:00 a.m. against the winner of the three-six matchup between Lincoln Memorial and Wingate. While the losers square off in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The other regional site is in Dahlonega, Ga., and features top-seeded North Georgia, Coker, Young Harris and Lees-McRae.
All told, Carson-Newman is 6-6 against teams comprising this year's regional. The Eagles own a sweep of Young Harris and are 2-1 against Coker. The Eagles went 1-2 against Anderson and split with Wingate. Lincoln Memorial swept the Eagles. North Georgia and Lees-McRae were the only two teams in the regional that the Eagles haven't faced.
Anderson is making its first regional appearance since 2015, which capped a streak of three consecutive for the Trojans. Anderson is 5-5 all-time in postseason play, advancing to the Super Regionals in 2013. Anderson hosted a regional in 2014.
The Eagles and Trojans are the only two teams that have an appearance in the super regional to their names. Wingate is making its sixth trip to regionals after a five-year absence. Meanwhile, Lincoln Memorial, the regular season SAC champs, appears in postseason play for the first time.
Carson-Newman is making its 15th trip to NCAA regionals and its third straight. Carson-Newman has won at least one game in postseason play in seven of its last eight postseason appearances (2017 with losses to Pfeiffer and Armstrong State is the exception).
In their first go-around as a regional site host, the Eagles are looking for its second Super Regional appearance and its first in a decade. Carson-Newman last made the Supers in 2009 before bowing out to North Georgia. No South Atlantic Conference team has ever made the College World Series.
LET'S. GO. DANCING. @cnsball is hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in program history.— Carson-Newman Athletics (@CNathletics) May 6, 2019
Eagles are in the tournament for a third straight year and a 15th time overall#TalonsUp pic.twitter.com/Qjdf4qTHNW
The Eagles are on the cusp of breaking some school records. Carson-Newman has hit 46 home runs this season. That's the third 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. The Eagles' chase of this record has come in spite of the team playing the fourth fewest games in school history.
Fiessinger is in the midst of a 15-game hitting streak. That's the sixth-longest hitting streak in school history. She needs one more to match current C-N assistant Kristen Toppel for the fifth-longest. Fiessinger also owns the fourth-longest streak with an 18-game hitting streak to start her career. Sammi Hatcher holds the school record for most consecutive games with a hit with 33. Angel Bales and Kelli Hensley follow with 25 and 19-game streaks.
Her .442 batting average is 29th in the country.
Meanwhile, Rager has the third-lowest ERA in the SAC at 2.02. She has a no-hitter to her name and leads the league in shutouts with six.
"We'll have to keep the ball down and mix speeds," Graves said. "I don't want to say that Allison got tired in the SAC title game, but the ball wasn't moving as much late in the game against Anderson. We certainly don't need to let Kayson Boatner hit the ball 240 feet."
Boatner has had one of the more potent bats in the South Atlantic Conference this year. Her three-run home run pushed Anderson back in the lead in the SAC title game. She has 15 home runs to lead the league, a figure that ranks 10th nationally.
Joshlyn Martin finished as the runner up to Fiessinger for the conference's batting crown with a .423 average. She has been on an absolute tear of late. The SAC Tournament MVP, Martin rides a seven-game hitting streak into the tournament. She had 10 hits in her last 13 at-bats at the plate.
First pitch between the Eagles and Trojans is set for 1 p.m. Thursday. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live.