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2014 Tusculum baseball schedule released

50-game schedule includes 30 SAC game slate

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum College baseball team will play a 50-game regular-season slate with the release of the 2014 schedule by TC head coach Doug Jones. (2014 Schedule)

This year’s schedule includes 10 teams that posted winning records in 2013, including nine that finished with 29 or more victories and two teams that advanced to their respective College World Series.

Jones, who is entering his 17th season in Greeneville, returns 18 lettermen, including five starters and eight pitchers from last year’s 33-18 club that finished third in the league. Top returners include two-time All-Region relief pitcher John-Austin Shepard (1.95 ERA, 6-3 record, 9 saves, 58 strikeouts) and TC’s top two hitters from a year ago in Vinny Ferrara (.353, 36 hits, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 18 RBI) and Heath Comerford (.337, 58 hits, 20 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs, 49 RBI).

With the addition of 2013 NCAA Division II Southeast Region champion Coker College to the South Atlantic Conference, the Pioneers will play a 30-game league slate this spring.

“This year’s schedule will be a challenging one, especially as we try to get several of our new players accustomed to our level of play,” said Jones. “We have set this schedule up to be a challenging one to prepare us for the rigorous conference schedule ahead and hopefully put us in a position to return to postseason play.”

The Pioneers will travel to Florida to open the season on Feb. 1 for a doubleheader at Nova Southeastern. The Sharks posted a 30-19 record and finished sixth in the Sunshine State Conference. TC will close out its Florida swing on Feb. 2 against Lynn University. The Knights finished fifth in the SSC while ending the year with a 30-20 worksheet.

Tusculum will open its 15th SAC season Feb. 7-8 when they host Lenoir-Rhyne for a three-game series at Pioneer Park. L-R went 21-29 last season as the Pioneers won two of the three meetings last year with the Bears.

On Feb. 11, Tusculum will travel to Nashville to face Trevecca Nazarene as the Trojans are coming off of last year’s 34-22 campaign while winning the Great Midwest Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles. One of those losses was an 11-10 extra inning setback at Tusculum as the Pioneers rallied from behind on three separate occasions.

TC stays on the road Feb. 14-15 for a SAC series at Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters posted a 26-26 record, while finishing fifth in the league standings. But LMU caught fire in the postseason to win the SAC Tournament earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Tusculum will close out its five-game road trip with a Feb. 18 regional game at North Greenville in the first of two meetings with the Crusaders. TC swept last year’s two meetings against NGU.

The Pioneers are back at home Feb. 21-22 for a three-game series against arch-rival Carson-Newman. The Eagles went 22-27 a year ago, while sweeping the regular season series and eliminating the Pioneers in the SAC Tournament.

Tusculum hosts King University on Feb. 25 at Pioneer Park. The Tornado finished third in Conference Carolinas last season while posting a 31-20 record. KU also finished runner-up in the conference tournament. The two teams will meet again in Bristol later this spring.

The Pioneers will be at SAC runner-up Wingate Feb. 28-Mar. 1 for a three-game weekend. The Bulldogs went 29-21 a year ago, but dropped two of three games to the Pioneers, including a 4-3 walk-off victory for the Pioneers in the series finale.

Tusculum will begin a 10-game home-stand on Mar. 4-5 as the Pioneers host Barton for a three-game midweek set. The Bulldogs went 19-24 last year while splitting a doubleheader with Tusculum.

On Mar. 8-9, the Pioneers host Bloomsburg for a three-game weekend series. Bloomsburg went 21-27 last year, finishing sixth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division. This will be the first time the Pioneers and Huskies have met since 2007 as the two teams split a pair of games in Greeneville.

Tusculum welcomes Newberry for a SAC series on Mar. 14-15 at Pioneer Park. The Wolves finished fourth in the SAC standings last year with a 29-22 overall record. TC went 3-1 against Newberry last year, including a win in the opening round of the SAC Tournament.

The Pioneers will close out the 10-game home-stand on Mar. 18 with a rematch against North Greenville.

Tusculum travels to Anderson for a three-game SAC series on Mar. 21-22 as the Trojans are coming off of a 17-33 season. TC swept all three games with Anderson last year and have posted an 8-1 record against AU since the Trojans joined the conference in 2011.

For the first time in 16 years, Tusculum and Lee University will meet on the diamond when they square off on Mar. 25 with a rematch slated for the following month. The Flames are playing its first season as a NCAA Division II member and will join the Gulf South Conference in the 2015-16 academic year. Lee established itself as a national power in the NAIA, including last year as the Flames went 51-12 to advance to the NAIA World Series, where they finished third, nationally.

Tusculum and Coker will meet for the first time ever on Mar. 28-29 at Pioneer Park. The Cobras finished second in the Conference Carolinas regular season, but put together a magical postseason run that included eight consecutive victories to win their conference tournament and follow with the NCAA Southeast Region title.

On Apr. 1, Tusculum ventures to Young Harris for a regional match-up. The Mountain Lions went 25-23 last year, while finishing 10th in the Peach Belt Conference. TC has won all three previous meetings with Young Harris, including a 6-3 decision in Greeneville last year.

TC travels to Brevard on Apr. 4-5 for a three-game conference series. The Tornados posted a 16-32 record in 2013 as TC owns a 15-3 series advantage over Brevard, including a 2-1 series win last year.

Tusculum hosts Lee in a rematch on Apr. 8 before taking on conference rival Catawba on Apr. 11-12. The Pioneers or Indians have won or shared the SAC regular season title in nine of the last 10 years. Catawba won its eighth SAC title in 2013 as the Indians went 36-16, including a 4-1 record against the Pioneers.  The Apr. 11 series opener will be Pack the Park Night at Tusculum, while the Apr. 12 twinbill will be Senior Day for the Pioneers.

Tusculum and King meet in a rematch on Apr. 16 in Bristol, before TC travels to cross-mountain rival Mars Hill for a three-game series. This will be Tusculum’s first trip to the renovated Henderson Field. The Lions went 10-32 last year, including a 2-1 series loss to the Pioneers.

The 2014 Food Lion SAC Tournament will be held in Forest City, N.C. for a fourth consecutive season. The top six teams in the league will qualify for the SAC Tournament with the winner earning the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Tusculum will close out the regular-season May 3-4 with a three-game series with Bluefield State in the first meeting between the Pioneers and the Big Blues.

The NCAA II Southeast Regional will be held May 15-18 at a campus site to be determined with the winner advancing to the DII College World Series in Cary, N.C.

Tusculum has accounted for 13 consecutive winning seasons, including 11 straight 30-win campaigns. Since 2003, the Pioneers have won five South Atlantic Conference championships, three SAC Tournament titles and have made six NCAA Tournament appearances.

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