The Tusculum University Pioneers baseball team will open its season at home against the University of Indianapolis at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The three-game series will conclude with a doubleheader at noon Sunday.

Attendance at Pioneer Park is limited to family members (2 per player) of Tusculum baseball student-athletes only and must be on the team’s pass list the day before the game. Limited seating for Tusculum students will also be available. Fans or family members of visiting teams are not allowed.

Live video and live stats for all three games this weekend will be available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.

Tusculum coach Brandon Steele begins his third year at the helm. The Pioneers return 27 lettermen from last year’s squad that finished 15-10 overall during the COVID shortened season.

The fall semester was a unique one for the TU baseball program with limited practices and workouts, which also included pauses and stoppages in a fall which was anything but normal.

“The challenge we were presented with was the same as everybody else,” Steele said. “It’s about adapting, overcoming and understanding that it is the new norm. Our players have done a much better job in transitioning to the spring and adhering to policies and understanding what’s at stake, because they are excited about having the opportunity of playing again.”

The Pioneers have a solid corps of hitters in the batting lineup returning, along with veteran experience defensively and some good arms in the pitching rotation.

“Having veteran leadership has benefited us greatly with the workout restrictions during the pandemic,” Steele said. “Our team understands the pace of play we expect on offense and defense and this has been an easier transition for our new players to learn because they have an experienced group to help them get up to speed.”

INFIELDERS

TU brings back its top six hitters including two-time All-America second baseman Daulton Martin and All-South Atlantic Conference infielder Bryson Ford.

Martin finished third on the team with his .333 batting average last spring, while leading the league with 21 walks (5th in NCAA II). The Lancaster, Pennsylvania graduate student also topped the conference with 16 stolen bases (5th in NCAA II) and was tied for second on the team with 28 hits including six doubles, two triples and one home run.

Martin, a three-time All-SAC standout, enters this year as the program’s all-time leader in runs scored (183), doubles (60), walks (126) and times hit by pitch (37). In his 178-game career, he has amassed 242 hits, while are the second-most in school history, while his 145 career RBI are third in the TU record book. Last spring, he was also recognized for his work in the classroom and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America first team.

Ford, a graduate student from Knoxville, was fourth on the roster in 2020 with his .324 batting average. Defensively, he saw action in both the outfield and at shortstop for the Pioneers last year. Despite missing four games to start the season, he totaled 24 hits with six doubles, two triples, three home runs and 17 RBI. He accounted for 17 walks and 10 stolen bases for the Pioneers and also earned a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-District first team.

In his 116 career games at Tusculum, Ford has stolen 37 bases which are ninth in TU history. He has totaled 118 hits with 20 doubles, four triples, six homers and 84 RBI, while batting .329 with a .448 on-base percentage and scoring 106 runs.

Junior infielder Jaden Steagall (Hiram, Ga.) led the team last spring with his 28 runs scored (3rd in SAC) and four round-trippers (T7th in SAC). His 24 RBI were second on the squad and tied for fifth-most in the league. He earned a spot on the Preseason All-SAC second team at third base this year while batting .298 last season and led the team with nine multiple RBI games.

Graduate student Trey Hinton (Knoxville) finished second on the team in 2020 with his .338 batting average. His 18 walks were second on the team, fifth in the SAC and 36th in the nation. He went 10-of-11 in stolen bases (5th in SAC / T37th in NCAA II) as well. He was the 2020 SAC Baseball Scholar Athlete of the Year and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District first team. In 2019, Hinton was the NCAA II National Statistical Champion for walks per game (1.26). His 93 career walks are tied for the seventh most in school history.

Senior Luis Ezra returns to the TU line-up, seeing most of his action at first base. The Miami Lakes, Florida native started in 23 games and batted .291 with 23 hits including six doubles, three home runs and 21 RBI (11th in SAC). His six sacrifice flies were the most in the conference and finished 16th in the league scoring 20 runs. Last February, he garnered SAC and NCBWA Southeast Region Player of the Week honors leading TU to a 5-0 record with a four-game sweep over Gannon and a mid-week victory against Carson-Newman.

Sophomore Daalen Adderley (Chattanooga) saw action in 13 contests including eight starts at shortstop. He finished his abbreviated rookie season with eight hits including two doubles, one home run and six RBI, while going 4-of-4 in his stolen base attempts.

Returning in the TU infield is senior Will Drake (Naperville, Ill.) who saw limited action late in the shortened season. Drake earned NJCAA All-America third team honors at Elgin Community College in 2017 as he posted a .322 average with 57 hits, 12 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 48 RBI while leading his team to a Region 4 title. Also returning from 2020 are infielders Murphy Flood (Dalton, Ga.), Tyler White (Huntersville, N.C.) and Colson Miller (Fallston, N.C.).

Ryan Kavulick (Macomb, Mich.) joins the TU program after playing one season at Macomb Community College in Michigan. He garnered team MVP honors while batting .432 with 48 hits, 10 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 39 RBI. He earned All-Conference accolades during his prep career at Lutheran High School North.

The rookie duo of Blake Hubble and Jason Lockhart join the Tusculum infield. Hubble (Knoxville) garnered 3-AAA District Co-Player of the Year honors at Halls High School. He batted .357 with 12 doubles, four triples and five home runs. Lockhart (Dacula, Ga.) is a graduate of Hebron Christian Academy where he posted a .400 on-base percentage in his last two season and was a member of the 2018 Region Championship team.

OUTFIELDERS

Senior outfielder Brandon Trammell (Knoxville) had an outstanding debut season with the Pioneers in 2020. He led the team with his .349 batting average (15th in SAC) and was also tops on the squad with 29 hits (12th in SAC) and 26 RBI (T6th in SAC). The University of Tennessee transfer was eighth in the league with his 17 walks, while his .481 on-base percentage was ninth-best in the conference. He finished the year strong for TU as he batted .460 (23-of-50) in his last 13 games before the season was cancelled.

Returning in the outfield is senior Fuzzy Furr as the Marietta, Georgia product started in 24 games last year where he totaled 25 hits with five doubles, one homer and 20 RBI (14th in SAC). He posted a .301 batting average where he scored 18 runs and drew 17 walks (T8th in SAC). He was also hit by a pitch on six occasions (7th in SAC) and went 5-of-6 in stolen bases.

Junior Wes Reynolds (Cherryville, N.C.) appeared in six games last season with one start in the outfield. He batted .222 with three runs scored and a pair of walks. Also back from the 2020 roster are senior tyler Ranel (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and sophomore Eli Riley (Harrisburg, Pa.)

New to the Tusculum outfield this season is Tennessee transfer Zane Keener. The Knoxville freshman did not play last season with the Volunteers due to the pandemic. Keener played his prep career at Christian Academy of Knoxville where he was a three-time All-State performer as the No. 5 outfielder in the state. He led CAK to three state titles and posted a .395 career average with 37 doubles, 13 triples, 15 home runs, 130 RBI, 73 stolen bases and 117 walks.

Junior college transfer Kyle Williams is also new in the Tusculum outfield. The Yuba City, California native batted .345 last season at Sierra College where recorded 24 stolen bases and posted a .467 on-base percentage.

CATCHERS

Veteran Chase Wullenweber anchors the catching duties for the Black & Orange. The West Chester, Ohio product was limited to 10 games last season after being injured and battled the off-season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He finished the year with a seven hits, two doubles, one homer and seven RBI. He batted .194

Senior catcher Jordan Beaver returns for the Pioneers, playing in 18 contests in 2020 including 16 starts with 15 coming behind the plate. He batted .283 with 15 hits, three doubles, one homer and 11 RBI.

Back from last year’s team at catcher is the sophomore duo of Corey Binion (Morehead, Ky.) and Blaze McCauley (Dacula, Ga.).

PITCHERS

The Pioneers return 15 pitchers from a staff that posted a 4.59 team earned run average which recorded 174 strikeouts in 207 innings pitched against 88 walks.

Tusculum’s top three pitchers in last year’s weekend rotation return in right-hander Gunner Becker and the southpaw duo of Nick Flesher and Keegan Ernest.

Becker, a senior from Grove City, Pennsylvania, led the Pioneers with his 3-0 record in six starts while posting a 1.17 ERA, which was the second-lowest in the SAC and 29th in NCAA II. His three victories were tied for fourth in the conference and his 30.2 innings pitched were 10th in the SAC. He finished with 13 strikeouts and held the opposition to a .222 batting average.

Flesher, a senior from Meridian, Idaho, went 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA in his six weekend starts. He pitched in 29.2 innings with 19 strikeouts and nine walks. He combined on one shutout in his inaugural TU season after transferring from NCAA Division I Southeastern Louisiana.

Ernest, a senior from Horseheads, New York, made five appearances on the mound with three starts. He amassed a 2-0 record with a 5.73 ERA. He fanned 15 and walked five in his 11 innings of work. Ernest played two years at Niagara County Community College before making his TU debut last year.

Senior right-hander Tyler Harmon made three appearances last season with a pair of league starts against Coker and UVA Wise. He went 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA and limited the opposition to a meager .148 team batting average. Prior to Tusculum, he pitched two seasons at Motlow State Community College where he went 7-4 with 102 strikeouts and a 4.60 ERA.

Junior righty Trent Collins is slated to return after an off-season injury. In 2020, he tied for the team lead with 11 appearances including one start. The Cohutta, Georgia product pitched in 14 innings with 12 strikeouts.

Graduate student Mitch McCain is slated to anchor the Tusculum bullpen once again. In his team-high 11 appearances, he posted a 1-2 record with two saves and a 4.34 ERA. He tallied 23 strikeouts in 18.2 innings of work. He walked only five batters and posted a .221 batting average for the opposition. McCain (Lawrenceville, Ga.) has made 51 career appearances on the bump for Tusculum, which are ninth-most in program history. He has an 8-7 record with seven career saves, 113 strikeouts and a 4.71 ERA.

Sam Lowe came to Tusculum as a position player, but emerged as a strong presence on the TU pitching staff. In 2020, he went 1-1 with one save and a 1.99 ERA in his nine appearances. He pitched in 22.2 innings which were the third most on the team and was second on the roster with 21 strikeouts against just seven walks. He also limited the opposition to a meager .179 batting average.

Grant Crosby (Knoxville) appeared in five games in his Tusculum debut season with four starts. He went 0-1 in his 11.2 innings while posting eight strikeouts. He pitched two seasons at NCAA Division I Morehead State University where he made 16 relief appearances.

Senior right-hander Harbor Jefferson missed most of last season due to recovering from a previous injury. He has a 4-2 career record on the mound with 18 appearances and 10 starts in his 48 innings pitched. He has a 5.06 career ERA with 43 strikeouts for the Cleveland native.

Senior Alec Lay (Maynardville) saw action in four games in 2020 with one start as he pitched in four innings with three strikeouts and zero walks.

Senior Trevor Lloyd made seven appearances for the Pioneers last season going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA. The Knoxville native pitched in 11.1 innings with 11 strikeouts. He has pitched in 35 games for his collegiate career with a 2-2 record with 47 strikeouts and a 5.82 ERA.

Also back this year are Austin Collins (Greeneville), Jacob Willett (Greeneville), Justin Parker (Huntsville, Ala.), Shawn DeAngelo (Knoxville), Aaron Couch (Soddy Daisy), Drew Miller (Mooresville, N.C.) and Jonathan Nelson (Knoxville).

New to the Tusculum pitching corps is freshman right-hander Dosie Drakeford from Acworth, Georgia where he pitched at Harrison High School. He lettered on the prep diamond twice and was a member two region championship teams.

THE SCHEDULE

For the 2021 campaign only, NCAA Division II has shortened the maximum number games to 40 contests from 50. Also added for the 2021 season, the South Atlantic Conference has instituted a 32-game league schedule with eight 4-game series being contested (a 5-game increase from 2020). The Pioneers will play 21 home games and 19 on the road culminating with the Pilot/Flying J SAC Baseball Championship in April.

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