GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University baseball team has released its 2019 schedule announced TU head coach Brandon Steele. (2019 Schedule)
The Pioneers will face a 48-game schedule which includes 10 games against teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Division II Tournament as well as a challenging 24-game South Atlantic Conference slate.
Steele, who is entering his 16th season on the coaching staff at Tusculum, will be in his inaugural campaign at the helm of the Pioneer program. Steele will have 27 returning lettermen including seven returning field position starters and 12 pitchers from last season's 25-27 squad that finished fifth in the league.
All-American second baseman Daulton Martin returns for his junior campaign after claiming the SAC batting title with his .413 average. Also back are All-SAC first team outfielder Jarel McDade as well as All-Conference standout pitcher Charles Hall and catcher Nate Montgomery.
Tusculum will play its first eight contests on the road beginning with the traditional February trip to South Florida for four games against stiff competition from the Sunshine State Conference.
TU will open the season with a pair of games on February 1st playing at Barry in the afternoon and traveling to SSC runner-up Nova Southeastern later that evening. Barry posted a 22-28 record last year and tied for eighth place in the Sunshine State Conference. Tusculum will face Barry for the first time since 2016 where the Buccaneers came away with a win over the Pioneers.
TU and Nova meet on the diamond for a fourth straight season. The Sharks are coming off a 35-16 campaign while advancing to the NCAA II postseason where they went 1-2 at the South Regional.
Tusculum will be at Palm Beach Atlantic on Feb. 2 to take on Sailfish for a third year in a row. TU and PBA have split the previous meetings with the Pioneers coming away with a 6-4 come-from-behind win.
Tusculum wraps up the Florida road swing on Feb. 3 at Lynn University. The Knights went 27-28 last year and finished tied for eighth in the SSC. TU has defeated Lynn in each of the last four years and are undefeated in its five trips to Boca Raton.
The Pioneers will be at Belmont Abbey for a three-game series Feb. 8-9. The Crusaders are coming off one of its best seasons in program history as the Abbey went 40-14, finished third in Conference Carolinas and earned an at-large postseason bid, advancing to the championship game of the Southeast Regional. The Crusaders were defeated twice on the final day to eventual region champion Columbus State. TU and Belmont Abbey will meet for a third straight year. The Crusaders took two of three games at last year's series in Greeneville, while the Pioneers went 2-1 in its last trip to Belmont in 2017. Tusculum and Belmont Abbey also met in the 2016 NCAA Southeast Regional where TU eliminated the Crusaders.
Tusculum will travel to Young Harris on Feb. 13 to face the Mountain Lions. YHC went 26-24 last year and finished seventh in the Peach Belt Conference. Last year's meeting was cancelled due to weather as the two teams will reunite on the diamond for the first time since 2017. Tusculum has won the last six meetings dating back to 2015.
"We are feel like our early non-conference schedule will challenge us and get us ready for South Atlantic Conference play," said Steele. "We enjoy competing against some of the best teams in the region and 2019 will be no different as we begin the Tusculum University Baseball era."
"Playing teams like Barry, Nova, Palm Beach Atlantic and Lynn in our first weekend will truly allow us the chance to measure ourselves as we move forward for the rest of the season. I'm extremely excited about the challenges we have ahead and competing against some of the best teams in the region."
The Pioneers will host Notre Dame (Ohio) for a four-game weekend series (Feb. 15-17) to open the home portion of their schedule. TU will play nine of its next 10 games at Pioneer Park, a venue that the Black and Orange has had outstanding success since its opening in 2002.
The Falcons return to Greeneville for a second straight year as TU captured the two meetings last season. Tusculum holds a 6-0 record against Notre Dame including a four-game sweep in 2013's inaugural meeting. The Falcons went 21-32 last year and finished third in the Mountain East Conference North Division.
Tusculum will play at Southeast Region opponent Lander Feb. 19 as the Bearcats look to improve on last year's 16-35 worksheet and an eighth place finish in the Peach Belt.
The Pioneers welcome Goldey-Beacom for a four-game series on the weekend of Feb. 22-24. The Lightning finished fourth in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference standings last season and went 19-28-1.
Tusculum welcomes in-state foe King University on Feb. 26 to close out the month and the home-stand. The Tornado had a fine season in 2018 posting a 29-19 record which included a season-sweep over the Pioneers. King would finish the year fifth in Conference Carolinas.
Tusculum begins its 20th season in the South Atlantic Conference this year and will play a pod schedule with eight, three-game series, but are not scheduled to face traditional league opponents Catawba and Newberry this season in SAC play.
Tusculum will play its first two series on the road at Wingate (Mar. 1-2) and Mars Hill (Mar. 8-9). Wingate claimed SAC runner-up honors last season going 34-19 overall and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers and Bulldogs have met every season since 1999. Tusculum won last year's series 2-1 in Greeneville and upset the second-seeded Bulldogs in the SAC Tournament.
Mars Hill went 21-26-1 last season which included a 1-2 record against the Pioneers in last year's SAC series as the Lions finished 10th in the conference.
SAC member Queens is entering its first season of Division II baseball in Charlotte. Tusculum will host the Royals for a three-game series, Mar. 15-16. Leading the first-year program is former American League Cy Young Award winning pitcher Jack McDowell.
On Mar. 20, Tusculum will host Bluefield State as the Big Blues are coming off a much-improved 17-19 season.
Tusculum will travel to Jefferson City to take on arch-rival Carson-Newman for a three-game SAC series. TU last played in Jefferson City in 2017 for a mid-week non-conference game, but this will be the first SAC series at Carson-Newman since 2013 between the Pioneers and Eagles. C-N swept last year's three-game series in Greeneville to finish third in the SAC and posted a 28-22 overall record.
The Pioneers will be at Lee University on Mar. 26 for the first of two meetings with the Flames. Lee went 27-26, finished seventh in the Gulf South Conference and split last year's series with Tusculum.
Tusculum returns home Mar. 29-30 for a three-game league series against Coker. The Cobras won two of the three games last year against TU to finished 18-25 and 11th in the SAC.
The Pioneers open the month of April with six consecutive road games beginning with a doubleheader at Winston-Salem. The two teams split last year's doubleheader at Tusculum. The Rams, who play as a NCAA II Independent, posted a 30-20 record last year.
Tusculum will be at Anderson for a three-game SAC series Apr. 5-6. The Trojans finished eighth in the league and went 25-29 overall and were swept by Tusculum in three games at Pioneer Park. Anderson claimed the final spot in the SAC Tournament and made the most of it opening with upset wins over fifth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne and shocked top-seed Catawba. AU would also post a thrilling 10-inning win over Tusculum in an elimination game before falling to eventual tournament winner Lincoln Memorial.
Tusculum travels to King for a rematch with the Tornado on Apr. 9 before returning to Greeneville for a seven-game home-stand to close out the regular season.
TU hosts Lincoln Memorial for a three-game weekend series Apr. 12-13. The Railsplitters went 36-21 last season and took two of the three SAC series games with the Pioneers in Harrogate. LMU finished fourth in the SAC standings before going 4-1 in their SAC Tournament title run including a 10-7 win over the Pioneers to had TU its first loss of the tournament.
Tusculum hosts Lee University on Apr. 16 before closing out the home-stand with Lenoir-Rhyne for a three-game series (Apr. 19-20). The Pioneers went 2-1 against the Bears as L-R finished with a 27-22 record and tied for fifth in the SAC standings with Tusculum and Newberry.
For a fourth straight year, the Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament will be play at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tennessee, Apr. 25-29, with the top eight teams in the final SAC standings earning bids to the league championship. The first day of the tournament pits the No. 5 seed against the No. 8 seed as well as the No. 6 seed against the No. 7 seed in single-elimination games to decide who advances to the double-elimination portion, which is the format for the remainder of the SAC Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament will begin May 16 with regional play being held throughout the country. The NCAA II College World Series will be held in Cary, North Carolina after a one-year absence and will be held from May 25 through June 1 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.