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Tusculum baseball drops home opener to Lenoir-Rhyne

Tusculum baseball drops home opener to Lenoir-Rhyne

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Justin Dean went 4-for-5 and scored a pair of runs in leading the Lenoir-Rhyne baseball team to a 4-1 non-conference win over Tusculum Wednesday afternoon at Pioneer Park.

The Bears (5-0) remain undefeated on the young season and snap a six-game losing streak at Tusculum, while recording their first win in Greeneville since 2011.

The two pitching staffs combined for 23 strikeouts in the game, including 13 total by the two starters.

Dean and teammate Marcus Shoemaker led off the game with back-to-back singles.  After a ground out moved the runners into scoring position, TC starter Christian Raasch got out of the jam with consecutive strikeouts to end the threat.

L-R starter Thomas St. Clair surrendered two singles through the first four innings.  In the top of the fourth, Raasch got out of another spot when David Newcomer reached on a one-out error and moved to second on a Josh Kent base hit.  Raasch ended the inning with a double play ground out to keep the game scoreless through four innings.

In the top of the fifth, L-R mounted a two-out rally when Dean and Shoemaker hit back-to-back singles up the middle and Alex Reynolds blasted a three-run homer over the left centerfield wall for a 3-0 Bears' lead.  It was Reynolds' second home run of the year.

Tusculum (1-3) tried to answer in the bottom of the inning when rookie Daulton Martin led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch.  John Topoleski followed with a walk and he also moved up a base on a wild pitch to put runners at second and third with no outs.  But St. Clair recorded a pair of strikeouts and L-R right-fielder Zach Jacobs made an outstanding running catch in foul territory to end the frame.

TC threatened again in the sixth when Nick Lacina singled and moved to third on a Zack Finchum two-out base hit.  Finchum moved to second on a passed ball to put two runners in scoring position as reliever John Curtis came aboard.  After a walk to Martin to load the bases, Curtis got a ground out to end the inning and preserve the 3-0 L-R lead.

Meanwhile TC reliever Ethan Stewart kept the Bears at bay as he struck out the first four batters he would face and got out of a two-on, one out jam with a couple of fly outs as he blanked the Bears in the sixth and seventh innings.

TC scratched out a run in the seventh when Dante Key led off with a single and later moved to second on a passed ball. Jeremy Glore got aboard with an infield single, but on the play an errant throw to third base to try and pick off Key went wide, allowing him to score from third.

The Pioneers and Bears each went down in order in the eighth inning.  In the ninth, Lenoir-Rhyne added a run as Dean tallied his second triple of 2017 when he went down the left field line.  Shoemaker followed with his third hit of the afternoon to bring home Dean and extend the lead to 4-1.

Curtis finished out the ninth as he gave up a lead-off double to Topoleski and retired the last three batters to secure his second save of the season.

St. Clair picked up the victory as he pitched 5.2 shutout innings, allowed five hits, one walk and seven strikeouts.  Curtis tossed the final 3.1 innings, allowed three hits, one unearned run, walked one and struck out four.

Raasch pitched well in his five innings as he scattered seven hits, allowed three runs, zero walk and six strikeouts.  Stewart allowed a hit, walked one and struck out four in his two shutout innings.  Eamonn Collins pitched 1.2 innings, allowed a run, one hit and fanned two, while Tim Hardy recorded the final out of the ninth after allowing a hit.

Tusculum finished with eight hits from eight different players.

The Pioneers return to action this weekend when they travel to 18th-ranked Belmont Abbey for a three-game series against the Crusaders, beginning with Friday's 4 p.m. opener.

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