GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University baseball team will open its season this weekend with its annual trip to Florida for four games in the Sunshine State beginning with Friday night's opener at Palm Beach Atlantic.
Head coach Brandon Steele, who is entering his second season at the helm of the TU program, returns 20 lettermen including 12 position players and eight pitchers from last year's 30-21 squad that finished third in the South Atlantic Conference. The 2020 roster also has five more veterans with the Tusculum program and 30 newcomers including four NCAA Division I transfers.
The Pioneers will face four teams from the Sunshine State Conference, including two who advanced to last year's NCAA Division II Tournament. Following Friday's game at Palm Beach Atlantic, TU will make the short trip to Fort Lauderdale to take on 16th-ranked Nova Southeastern. The Pioneers will play Lynn University on Sunday before closing out the Florida swing on Monday at NCAA postseason participant Embry-Riddle on Monday.
"We are excited to begin the 2020 season and take this journey together with the goal of playing in the postseason," said Steele. "We have a great group that's a good balance of veterans and newcomers who are all looking forward to competing against our tough conference and non-conference schedule."
Two-time All-America second baseman Daulton Martin (Lancaster, Pa.) is back for his final collegiate season. The three-time All-SAC performer led TU last year with his .362 batting average and led the conference with his 22 doubles and 52 walks. He belted a team-best eight home runs and also paced Tusculum with 112 total bases, 64 hits, 47 RBI, .633 slugging percentage, .518 on-base percentage and five sacrifice flies. He accounted for 15 multiple-hit games while also going 17-of-22 in stolen bases and was hit by pitch on 11 occasions.
In his 153-game career with the Pioneers, Martin is batting .384 which is the ninth-highest average in school history. He is also listed throughout the TU record book where his 54 career doubles are tied for the most in program history. He is fifth all-time in hits (214), fifth in triples (11), seventh in RBI (129), third in total bases (338), second in walks (105), fifth in hit by pitch (26) and second in career on-base percentage (.498).
Junior infielder Bryson Ford (Knoxville, Tenn.) earned All-SAC honorable mention laurels at third base. He split time at third base and shortstop last year and earned NCBWA and SAC Player of the Week recognition. Ford batted .328 and notched a .436 on-base percentage. His 26 stolen bases were second in the league, 31st in the nation and were the third-most in program history. Ford has a .330 career average in his 95 games with TU where he has totaled 94 hits, 14 doubles, three home runs and 67 RBI.
Sophomore infielder Jaden Steagall (Hiram, Ga.) finished fourth on the team with hit .287 batting average in his rookie campaign. He played in 41 games with 37 starts including 32 at shortstop. He totaled 39 hits with four doubles, one triple and a homer and tallied 15 RBI.
Junior Trey Hinton (Knoxville, Tenn.) was the NCAA II National Statistical Champion for walks per game averaging 1.26 per contest. He posted a .243 average with 28 hits, but tallied 49 walks for a robust .479 on-base percentage. His walk total was third in the league, seven in the country and fourth-most by a Pioneer. Hinton recorded seven doubles and a stolen base.
Senior infielder Garrett Dupuis (Kennesaw, Ga.) played in 32 games with 22 starts, mostly at first base. He batted .258 with 23 hits, three doubles and two home runs with 21 RBI. Dupuis also finished third on the team with his 140 putouts and a team-best .986 fielding percentage.
Veteran catcher Chase Wullenweber (West Chester, Ohio) is back for his junior campaign after finishing last year with a .250 batting average and caught 26 games behind the plate, including 23 starts. He finished the year with 17 hits including two doubles, one triple and 14 RBI. He posted a .407 on-base percentage and was second on the team with four sacrifice bunts. His 190 putouts were second on the team while his .981 fielding percentage was third including nine base runners he threw out.
Senior Kaleb Bell (Houston, Texas) saw action both on the field and on the mound for Tusculum. He made 16 plate appearances and saw action defensively at catcher. He also made three relief appearances out of the TU bullpen where he pitched 2.1 innings with five strikeouts and did not record a decision.
Sophomore infielder Zach Froment (Morinville, Alberta, Canada) was perfect in his six plate appearances last year which included two hits, one walk and was hit by a pitch three times as he drove in four RBI and scored three runs.
Sophomore outfielder Wes Reynolds (Cherryville, N.C.) saw action in 18 games with nine starts as he batted .306 with 11 hits, five doubles, one homer and nine RBI. Outfielder Jake Wapinsky (Blandon, Pa.) has appeared in 43 games in his two seasons with the Pioneers where he has amassed 19 hits, 17 runs, three doubles, 11 RBI and 20 walks, while batting .232.
Of the eight returning pitchers from last year's club only four recording starts on the bump. Gone is 2019 SAC Pitcher of the Year Charles Hall, who was the workhorse of the staff with his 89.2 innings of work and led the nation with 148 strikeouts.
Veteran southpaw Mitch McCain (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the team with 21 relief appearances in his 37.2 innings. He posted a 5-1 record and a 3.58 earned run average with one save and tallied 56 strikeouts and held the opposition to a .223 batting average.
Junior Harbor Jefferson (Cleveland, Tenn.) recorded the most starts of the returning pitchers for TU as he tallied eight in his 11 total appearances. He battled through injury for the final part of the season to post a 3-2 record with a 4.14 ERA. Jefferson pitched in 37 total innings with 36 strikeouts.
Crafty right-hander Kent Noe (Knoxville, Tenn.) was the mid-week starter for Tusculum as he posted a 1-0 record with a 4.43 ERA with one save in his 10 appearances including five starts. He combined on two shutouts in 2019 as he pitched in 20.1 innings with 14 strikeouts.
Sophomore Alec Lay (Maynardville, Tenn.) also made 10 appearances on the mound including four starts, going 3-2 with 17 strikeouts and 20.2 innings.
Junior Trevor Lloyd (Knoxville, Tenn.) pitched in 11 games with two starts last season. He threw 18.1 innings and finished with a 4.42 ERA going 1-0 with 13 strikeouts.
Senior Carter Linton (Kingsport, Tenn.) pitched in six games after transferring from nearby ETSU. Linton recorded 19 strikeouts against seven walks in his 12 innings on the mound in his first TU season.
Greeneville sophomore Austin Collins made 13 appearances on the mound where he went 2-1 with a 5.57 ERA. In his 21 innings, he amassed 11 strikeouts with one save.
Sophomore Trent Collins (Cohutta, Ga.) is back after redshirting in 2019. In his freshman campaign, he made five appearances in his 12 innings with nine strikeouts.
Senior left-hander Nick Flesher comes to Tusculum after playing last season at NCAA Division I Southeastern Louisiana. He made eight appearances with the Lions with three starts in 2019. He also pitched two seasons at Spokane Falls Community College where he was a two-time ABCA All-Region selection and garnered Gold Glove and All-Tournament distinction as a sophomore. In his two seasons in Spokane, he posted a 13-7 record and pitched in 159 innings with 133 strikeouts and was a two-time All-Conference pick.
Junior outfielder Brandon Trammell (Knoxville, Tenn.) played the 2018 season at the University of Tennessee where he played in 32 games with 17 starts. He totaled 16 hits with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 11 RBI. He was a two-time All-State performer at Bearden HS and was rated the No. 1 outfielder and No. 8 overall player in the State of Tennessee by Perfect Game.
Junior southpaw pitcher Grant Crosby (Knoxville, Tenn.) played two years at Morehead State University, making 16 relief appearances and posted a 4.50 ERA last year. He played his prep career at Gibbs High School where he was a two-time Pitching Most Valuable Player and was a 3A All-District selection.
Junior outfielder Fuzzy Furr (Marietta, Ga.) comes to Tusculum after his two seasons at Chattahoochee Valley Community College where he 40 games with 21 hits, 18 walks, six times hit by pitch and two doubles.
Junior outfielder Alvaro Valdez (Miami, Fla.) batted .333 last season at Eastern Florida State College where he finished with 17 doubles and a .467 slugging percentage while earning All-Conference first team honors. Valdez led his Westminster Christian School to a State Championship while batting .322 during that 2015 campaign.
Junior right-hander Gunner Becker (Grove City, Pa.) could work his way into the Tusculum starting rotation. Becker played the last two seasons at Niagara County Community College. Last year, Becker posted a 7-1 record with a 3.67 ERA while tallying 50 strikeouts and limited the opposition to bat just .193 against him. He led NCCC to a 38-10 record including 11-1 in conference play for the Thunder Wolves, who advanced to the NJCAA Region Final.
JUCO teammate Keegan Ernest (Horseheads, N.Y.) was also a member of the Niagara County pitching staff last year. He went 6-2 in his nine starts with a 2.04 ERA. Ernest tossed 53 innings with 54 strikeouts against just 18 walks.
Junior right-handed pitcher Shawn DeAngelo (Knoxville, Tenn.) played his JUCO career at Columbia State for former TU assistant coach Mike Corn. In his freshman year, he posted a 4.93 ERA in his 21 appearances which including two starts. He posted 26 strikeouts in his 34.2 innings on the mound with a pair of saves.
Junior infielder Sam Loew (Binghampton, N.Y.) batted .303 with 54 runs scored, 22 doubles, three triples, three homers and 61 RBI while earning NJCAA All-Region accolades in his career at Monroe Community College.
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Harmon (Huntsville, Ala.) posted a 7-4 record with a 4.60 ERA at Motlow State Community College. Harmon finished with 102 strikeouts in his 90 innings on the mound.
Junior infielder Luis Ezra (Miami Lakes, Fla.) played previously at Seminole State and his prep career at Calvary Christian Academy where he led them to a pair of State title game appearances including 2016 winning the championship.
Also joining the Tusculum program this year are transfers Zack Odsen (INF, Warwick, R.I., CC of Rhode Island), Justin Parker (RHP, Huntsville, Ala., Motlow State), Tyler Ranel (OF, Lawrenceville, Ga., ETSU) and Rob Trimble (OF, Whitehouse, Texas, Tyler JC).
Thirteen (13) freshmen also join the Pioneers this spring including: Daalen Adderley (INF/P, Chattanooga, Tenn., McCallie School), Murphy Flood (INF/P, Dalton, Ga./ Southeast Whitefield County HS), Tyler Monk (INF, Lancaster, Pa., Lancaster HS), Eli Riley (OF, Harrisburg, Pa., Mercersburg Academy), Tyler White (INF, Huntersville, N.C., Hopewell HS), Chad Curtis (RHP, Pembroke Pines, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas), Jonathan Nelson (RHP, Knoxville, Tenn., Karns HS), Blaze McCauley (C/INF, Dacula, Ga., Mill Creek HS), Anthony Guy (RHP, Chicago, Ill., Lane Tech College Prep), Colson Miller (INF, Fallston, N.C., Burns HS), Corey Binion (C, Morehead, Ky., Rowan County Senior HS), Payton Boyd (INF, Evansville, Ind., Gibson Southern HS), Aaron Couch (P/OF, Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., Soddy-Daisy HS) and Ryan Sanders (C, Peachtree City, Ga., McIntosh HS).
Following this weekend's to Florida, Tusculum will return home to play 12 of its next 13 at Pioneer Park beginning with a weekend series against Southeast Region powerhouse Belmont Abbey (Feb. 7-8).