HICKORY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (20-7, 7-7 South Atlantic Conference) clobbered four home runs and swept its first doubleheader at league-leading Lenoir-Rhyne (24-12, 7-4 SAC) since 2015 Saturday afternoon at Bears Field.
The Eagles boat-raced the Bears 10-4 in game one of the doubleheader before rallying from a three-run deficit in the sixth and holding off a late Bears rally for a 6-5 win in the nightcap.
The wins avenge a 17-0 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne in last year's Southeast Regional.
The Eagles pounded out double-digit hits in both games of the doubleheader. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) and Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) both smashed home runs in game one while KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) tallied bombs in the night cap. Cooper's three-run blast in the top of the sixth gave C-N the lead for good in game two.
"I told Coop that I need her swinging and to not get cheated," Graves said. "I said hit it out of here. That was a huge home run and then she came back up with what turned out to be a huge double."
Rager went 4-for-7 at the plate with three runs scored and two driven in. She had a pair of multi-hit multi-hit efforts. Cooper broke out of a recent swoon at the plate. The Eagles' designated player drove in four and went 3-for-7 for the day. Levi was also 3-for-7 with four driven in.
Rager tallied both wins in the circle for C-N. She struck out a career-high 13 in game one before adding two more Ks in relief in the nightcap. Game one marked Carson-Newman's first double-digit punchout performance since Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) fanned 12 Mars Hill Lions on April 4 last year.
After hitting .198 for the Month of March, the Eagles are hitting .402 through four games in April. The Eagles hit .333 with runners in scoring position for the doubleheader.
GAME ONE: Carson-Newman 10, Lenoir-Rhyne 4
Carson-Newman struck first doing so after one time through the order in the third. Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led off the inning with back-to-back singles through the left and right side, respectively.
That set the table for Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) the junior smashed her seventh home run of the season over the wall in right. The three-run bomb staked C-N to a 3-0 lead.
Lenoir-Rhyne would strike back in the bottom of the frame. After singles from Savannah Moorefield and Talon LaClair, Kylee Leonhardt drove in two with a two-out double to the wall in right to pull the Bears within a run, 3-2.
The Eagles then exploided for seven unanswered over the next two innings. In the fourth, a walk from Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and back-to-back one-out singles from Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Rinus loaded the bases.
Fiessinger brought in her fourth run of the day with a sacrifice fly to center field. KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) finished out a three-run frame by driving a 3-2 pitch into center field for a two-out, two-run double to send C-N up 6-2.
The Eagles kept rolling in the fifth. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) led off the inning by blasting an 0-1 pitch over the wall in center for her sixth home run of the season. Up 7-2, the Eagles then took advantage of Bears' miscues.
A Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) and walks to Natalie Lankster (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and Rinus loaded the bases for the Eagles with two outs. Fiessinger hit a would-be inning-ending ground ball to short. However, the Bears' Talon LaClair misplayed it and two unearned runs scored to give C-N a 9-2 lead.
Levi came through with another timely two-out knock to plate Rinus and send Carson-Newman up 10-2.
Lenoir-Rhyne needed to score in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game and came through. Talon LaClair ripped a two-out, two-run home run down the right field to take away the run rule, and pull the Bears within six, 10-4.
Rager got the win in the circle to improve to 10-4. She fanned a career-high 13 and walked three. The Bears tagged her for eight hits and four runs, all of which were earned.
Brandi Parks took the loss for L-R to fall to 17-6 in a 3.1-inning start. She gave up six hits and six runs, all earned. Emily Kenley worked 0.2 innings in relief, she allowed four hits and two runs, one of which was earned. Hannah Jennings worked the final three innings, giving up two hits and two unearned runs.
Fiessinger was 1-for-4 at the plate with four runs batted in. Levi and Rinus both logged multi-hit efforts. Levi also drove in three runs.
GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 6, Lenoir-Rhyne 5
Lenoir-Rhyne struck first in game two, Kylee Leonhardt went yard to left to lead off the second to put Lenoir-Rhyne up 1-0.
The Bears added an insurance run in the bottom of the third. LaClair ripped a two-out triple to center field to plate Erin Boone, who had gotten on with a fielder's choice after a leadoff single from Cassie Healey. That put L-R up 2-0. Leonhardt followed with her second RBI of the day, a single back up the box to make it 3-0 Bears.
Carson-Newman roared in front in the top of the sixth. Levi led off the inning by crushing her team-leading eighth home run of the year. She took the first pitch of her at-bat over the wall in left to get the Eagles on the board.
After a foul out, Rager singled to left and Scott reached on an error at second. That set the stage for Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) the senior ripped a 1-1 pitch down the left field line and out of the park to give C-N a 4-3 lead. The bomb was Cooper's fourth of the year.
Carson-Newman added some insurance in the top of the seventh. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) led off the inning with a single back up the box. Rager followed suit with a double to right center to plate Caldwell from three bases away.
After a pop fly to short, Cooper kept the party rolling with a base hit to center that scored Rager and gave C-N a three-run advantage, 6-3.
Lenoir-Rhyne mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh. The Bears had runners on the corners with one out after two singles and a fielder's choice. Leonhardt delivered an RBI single back up the middle to score Moorefield and pull the Bears within two, 6-4.
The Bears kept the rally rolling with a single from Leanna Sherrill to load the bases. Mackensi Swain knocked one back up the middle to keep things loaded up and bring the tying run to third with an RBI single.
Rager then shut the Bears down. She induced a ground ball to first. Scott tossed home to put out number two on the board. Then the Morehead State transfer got a K looking on four pitches to end the game with the bases loaded.
Rager picked up the win in relief to improve to 11-4. She gave up five hits and two runs in three innings of relief work.
Rinus allowed seven hits and three runs in a four-inning start.
Parks took another loss for the Bears to fall to 17-7. She gave up nine hits and six runs, five of which were earned. Parks, third in the conference in Ks, only struck out one and issued three free passes in a six-inning start.
Kenley hurled an inning in relief. She gave up a hit, but didn't allow a run.
Carson-Newman returns to action Wednesday out of league play against North Greenville. First pitch with the Crusaders is set for 2 p.m. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network online at cneagles.com/live.