The South Atlantic Tournament will kick off on Thursday, April 27 at Byerly Park in Hartsville, S.C.and end on Sunday April 30th. The tournament is a double elimination tournament that sees the winner claiming an automatic bid in the National Tournament. Thursday will start off with four quarterfinal match-ups at 10:00am. Six games will be played on Friday with the two loser’s bracket games at an alternate site.
The tournament saw a couple of tie breakers needed for seeding. The overall #1 seed went to Carson-Newman who tied with Lenoir-Rhyne for the regular season SAC championship. Carson-Newman posted the best record against #3 seed Newberry going 2-0. The #4 seed went to Coker who had a conference record of 13-7 edging out #5 seed Anderson who was 12-8. Wingate earned the #6 seed despite being tied with #7 seed Tusculum due to a Bulldog sweep of the Pioneers in the regular season. The final #8 spot of the tournament was given to Queens over Lincoln Memorial. Both teams split in the regular season, but Queens split with #6 Wingate was the deciding factor for the Royals heading to the postseason.
Thursday will start with #3 Newberry vs. #6 Wingate at 10:00am then #2 Lenoir-Rhyne vs. #7 Tusculum at 12:30pm. The final two games will have #1 Carson-Newman vs. #8 Queens at 3:00pm and the lost game will see host #4 Coker play against #5 Anderson at 5:30pm. The 4 game winners will face off at 10:00am and 12:30pm at Byerly Park while the two loser bracket games will be played at an alternate site at the same time. Below is our breakdown of the first round matchups.
#3 Newberry vs. #6 Wingate
Season Series: 2-0 Newberry sweep
Wingate was swept by Newberry at Newberry 10-5 in game 1 and 4-2 in game 2.
Newberry walks into the tournament with the 2nd best batting average in the SAC with a team .312 and the 4th best team ERA with a 2.67. As a team the Wolves have outscored their opponents 243-136. The 136 runs allowed by Newberry is the 3rd best trailing only Carson-Newman and Lenoir-Rhyne. Natalie Willis is the most consistent bat in the lineup hitting .418 the 3rd best in the SAC while Haley Simonds has driven out 11 homeruns, good enough for 3rd in the conference. The pitching staff is led by Devon Morrison who has the 4th best ERA in the conference with a 1.95 and is 3rd in the conference with 18 wins while pitching 150.2 innings on the season. Newberry comes into the tournament with the longest win streak in the SAC with 4 games and is super hot going 9-1 in their last 10 games including their sweeps over Wingate and Coker.
Wingate had an up and down season putting them right at .500 in the conference. Outscoring opponents 208-172 the Bulldogs hit a team batting average of .295. Naomi Sapp was the offensive catalyst for Wingate hitting .417, 4th best in conference and led the team with runs, double and triples. However it was the pitching of Rachel Weidner that really kept the Bulldogs in this season. Leading the entire conference in innings pitched, Weidner posted a 2.43 ERA with 130 strikeouts. Wingate comes in on a 2 game losing streak and is 4-6 in their last 10 games of the season.
It is tough to not see Newberry take this game. Entering the tournament the Wolves are one of the hottest teams in the conference. They also look to have an edge on offense and defense over the Bulldogs as far as stats. However, with that said we are looking for Wingate to pull an upset here. Wingate comes with a lot of postseason experience while Newberry is still relatively new. In a one game takes all playoff we see Wingate edging this game out for the upset to start the day.
#2 Lenoir-Rhyne vs. #7 Tusculum
Season Series: 2-0 sweep by Lenoir-Rhyne
Lenoir-Rhyne won their two games at home over Tusculum with a 5-0 win in game 1 and an 11-9 win in game 2.
Lenoir-Rhyne enters the tournament as one of the best hitting teams in the entire southeast and the NCAA. Posting the 3rd best team batting average in the nation, the .380 average leads the entire conference with second place Lincoln Memorial at .315. The Bears lead the SAC in 9 offensive categories including being the only team with over 300 runs (384), 500 hits (557), 100 doubles (105) and a .500 slugging percentage (.557). Erin Boone and Sarah Keenley lead the SAC with a .466 and .451 batting average respectively. Kenley is also 4th in RBI with 52 and 5th with 9 homeruns. While the bats are superior the pitching is strong throwing a 2nd best team ERA of 1.96 in the conference. Brandi Parks leads the pitching staff with a 1.56 ERA in her 152.1 innings pitched. She also leads the team with 122 strikeouts and is second in the conference with 20 wins. Lenoir-Rhyne is coming off a split with Carson-Newman but before the loss was on a 13 game win streak.
Tusculum enters the game as the second worst batting average in the tournament with a .283. As a team however they were able to outscore their opponents this season in a slight 220-218 margin. Tusculum also enters with the 8th best pitching staff in the conference throwing a team ERA of 4.13. The Pioneers are entering the tournament going 6-4 in their last 10 games including their final series sweep over Catawba.
The Bears are more focused right now than they have been all season. We look for Coach Hollar to take this team to the next level and coming in with one of the strongest lineups in the southeast bodes well for a team wanting to make a tournament run. The Bears are too much and will overpower Tusculum in the first game and we don’t expect this one to be close.
#1 Carson-Newman vs. #8 Queens
Season Series: 2-0 sweep by Carson-Newman
Carson-Newman won both games in 5 innings the first 8-0 and the second 9-1.
Carson Newman will walk into the conference tournament with one of the premier arms in the southeast. Freshman Lacie Rinus has taken the SAC by a storm and put up crazy stats leading the SAC with wins (21), strikeouts (188), strikeouts per 7 (7.70) and ERA (1.35). The lefty Rinus compliments senior Allison Webster who posted a 2.56 ERA and as a staff the team posted a 1.92. While the pitching has been great the hitting has been no slouch. Hitting in 269 runs, the offense posted a team .307 batting average while having 4 players hitting over .300 and freshman Abby Fiessinger hit .404 on the season and leads the team with 7 homeruns. After being swept by Coker, the Eagles went on a 7 game win streak until it was broken in the last game in a split with Lenoir-Rhyne.
Queens enters the tournament just squeaking by Lincoln Memorial, who is kicking themselves for missing the tournament after all the Railsplitters did post the 2nd best batting average in the league and still missed the tournament. Queens on the other hand posts the lowest team batting average in the league with a .262 and were outscored by opponents 382-317. While this seems scary you would be surprised that the Royals team is 3rd with 162 walks and led the conference with 86 stolen bases 24 more than the second place team. The pitching staff will enter the tournament with the worst ERA in the tournament field with a 4.50, however freshman arm Courtney Pearson has been a bright spot throwing the 2nd most innings in the SAC while posting a 3.11 ERA. Pearson is 3rd in the conference with 140 strikeouts. Queens was swept in their final series against Lenoir-Rhyne and are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
This Carson-Newman team is better than anyone thought. Their freshman class has made the most of the season and walks in as one of the youngest and strongest teams in the SAC. Queens is just outmatched in this one and the Eagles are hungry to dethrone Lenoir-Rhyne. We see Carson-Newman running away with this one pretty quickly.
#4 Coker vs. #5 Anderson
Season Series: 2-0 sweep by Anderson
Anderson took both games at home winning 5-0 in the first and then pulling out a 4-3 game in the second.
This series will be one of the most evenly matched series, instead of splitting up the teams it is almost just as easy to compare. Anderson posts the 5th best batting average in the SAC with a .305 while Coker comes in next with a .302. Anderson leads the SAC with 47 homeruns and Coker is 7 with 31 but both have the best hitters in their lineup with Cailah Niles for Anderson and Maria Williamson for Coker each hitting 14 in the season. Coker sits at second in the league producing 298 runs and Anderson is right behind with 275. While Anderson tops the league in homeruns Coker is second in double and triples while Anderson sits at 7 and 11 respectively.
While the hitting is almost even we do see Coker holding the edge on pitching with a 2.18 ERA compared to Anderson’s 2.74 but Anderson’s arms are better strikeouts with 265 total and 5.95 per 7. Coker posts the 3rd best with 5.18 strikeouts per 7 and 259 total Ks. Coker is 6-4 in their last 10 and Anderson is 5-5. Both team swept their finals series and come in with a 2 game win streak.
It’s a good thing this is in the premier time slot because it will be the premier game of the day. Coker will look for revenge after losing to Anderson twice in the season and we look for Coker to get their revenge. With home field advantage, better run production and a better pitching staff the Cobras will come in and surprise Anderson in an extremely close game. The big benefit may just come down to the fact that Coker will get the last at bat.
Projections for remainder of tournament:
- Semifinal Game: #1 Carson-Newman vs. #4 Coker
- Semifinal Game:#2 Lenoir-Rhyne vs. #6 Wingate
- Championship Game: #1 Carson-Newman vs. #2 Lenoir-Rhyne
- Champion: #2 Lenoir-Rhyne