BELMONT, N.C. --- Belmont Abbey took advantage of three Tusculum errors while pitchers Griffin Baker and Parker MacPhail combined on a one-hitter as the 36th-ranked Crusaders defeated the visiting Pioneers 5-3 Friday night at Abbey Yard.
The TU loss spoiled the superb outing by Pioneer senior pitcher Charles Hall as he recorded a career-best 16 strikeouts in six innings of work in a no-decision. Hall's performance surpassed his 11-strikeout effort at Catawba last year and tied for the second-most strikeouts by a Pioneer along with Eric Yankovich at Lincoln Memorial in 1985 and Placido Torres' 16 strikeout-outing versus Kentucky Wesleyan in 2016. Hall's 16 strikeouts were one shy of the TU single-game record posted by Torres in 2016 against Stillman College.
Baker was masterful in his seven-inning start as he fanned eight Pioneers, while allowing one hit, two runs, one earned, three walks and hit a batter to improve to 2-0 on the season. MacPhail pitched the final two innings, allowed an unearned run in the ninth with one walk and struck out four including the final out with the tying run at the plate for his first save of 2019.
Both pitchers retired the side in order in the first as Baker struck out the side in the top half of the frame, while Hall followed with two strikeouts and a ground out in the bottom of the inning. Bake faced the minimum through three innings while Hall worked around an error and a base hit with three strikeouts in the second and struck out three in the third working around a one-out double.
Tusculum (1-4) got on the scoreboard in the fourth as Bryson Ford led off with a single up the middle, moved to second on a walk, stole third and scored on Jarel McDade's RBI fielder's choice. In the bottom of the fourth, the Crusaders (2-4) answered with an unearned run as Mason Dodd led off with a single, moved to second on a ground out and later advanced to third on a throwing error by Hall on a failed pickoff move. Hall struck out Matt Bapst, but Ben Gobbel tied the game at 1-1 with his two-out single.
Baker retired the side in order in the top of the fifth while Hall hit a batter and Jason White reached on a throwing error to put the first two runners aboard. But Hall responded with three straight strikeouts to end the threat.
Tusculum retook the lead in the sixth as Garrett Dupuis reached on a fielding error. Ford was hit by a pitch and Daulton Martin walked to load the bases with one out. McDade drove in his second run of the game when he lined out to left field allowing Dupuis to score from third.
But Belmont Abbey answered in the sixth inning with another unearned run against Hall. Ben Sneider led off with a single. Hall struck out Collin Andres before Sneider stole second base and later moved to third on a passed ball. Hall got the second out of the frame with a strikeout of Gobbell, but a second passed ball of the frame brought in Sneider with the tying run. Hall ended the inning with strikeout, his 16th of the game which saw him throw 105 pitches in six innings of work.
Christian Cuba took over for Hall in the seventh as he struck out the first two batters he would face. But a walk to Richard De La Cruz followed by a wild pitch that moved him all the way to third base. A second wild pitch by Cuba would bring him home with the go-ahead run and the Crusaders' first lead of the game. Cuba (0-2) ended the inning with a strikeout of Jakob Rolly as TU trailed 3-2.
MacPhail came on and retired the side in order in the eighth inning including a pair of strikeouts to start his evening.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Crusaders tacked on two insurance runs as Dodd led off with a walk and scored on Sneider's RBI triple to left field. Andres singled in the second run of the inning, bringing in TU reliever Mitch McCain. McCain got a double-play ground out and Adam Overcash reached on a single, advanced to second but was thrown out at third base by McDade.
Tusculum attempted a rally in the ninth inning as Ford led off with a walk and stole second when Martin struck out looking. McDade reached on a fielding error moving Ford to third base. Chase Wullenweber drove in Ford with a sacrifice fly, brining shortstop Jaden Steagall to the plate representing the tying run. But MacPhail would end the game with a strikeout and send TU to its fourth straight loss.
Sneider led all players with his 2-for-4 performance scoring two times and driving in one.
The two pitching staffs combined for 31 strikeouts including 19 by Tusculum, the third-most by the TU pitching staff in program history.
The two teams will wrap up the weekend series with Saturday's 1 p.m. doubleheader at the Abbey Yard.