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Pioneers blank Crusaders 3-0 in home opener

Pioneers blank Crusaders 3-0 in home opener

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum Pioneers got out of a pair of bases loaded, no-out jams, including one in the ninth inning as TU held on for a 3-0 win over Belmont Abbey Saturday night at Pioneer Park.

The pitching trio of Gunner Becker, Carter Linton and Mitch McCain combined on the shutout marking the second straight year the Pioneers have blanked their opponent in TU's home opener.

It was a pitchers' duel between Becker and Belmont Abbey starter Griffin Baker as the duo put up goose eggs for the first five innings.  Both came out sluggish to start the game. In the top of the first inning, the Crusaders put the first three batters via a walk, a hit batter and a TU fielding error. But Becker bounced back with back-to-back strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning.  Tusculum got walks from Daulton Martin and Brandon Trammell in its half of the first, but Baker got an inning-ending double play to halt the threat.

The Pioneers left eight of their nine runners on base through the first five innings as Tusculum had its chances.

In the bottom of the sixth, Luis Ezra reach on an error, moved to second on Daalen Adderley's sacrifice bunt, moved to second on a balk and scored on Trey Hinton's sacrifice fly to drive in Ezra with the game's first run.

TU tacked on two more runs in the seventh as Martin led off with a single and stole second base. After Trammell drew a one-out walk, Fuzzy Furr lined a base hit to right to bring home Martin from second while Trammell advanced to third.  Jaden Steagall, the reigning South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week, laid down a perfect sacrifice squeeze bunt to bring home Trammell with the third run of the game.

Linton took over for Becker in the eighth inning and worked around a two-out walk with a strikeout to end the inning.  In the top of the ninth, Linton walked Adam Overcash, surrendered a single to pinch-hitter Kale Rhame and pinch-hitter Mike Davis drew a walk to load the bases.

McCain came aboard and struck out the first two batters he would face and got a ground out to end the game and preserve the shutout.

Becker went seven innings, allowed three hits, one walk and finished with five strikeouts. Linton gave up one hits, three walks and posted two strikeouts in his inning of work, while McCain notched his first save of the year as he posted two strikeouts in the TU victory.

Belmont Abbey reliever Will Carney suffered the loss as he went 1.2 innings, allowed three runs (2 earned), on two hits, one walk and one strikeout. Joe Cooney retired every batter he faced with two strikeouts.  Baker finished the game with five shutout innings, including three hits, five walks and four strikeouts.

The two teams will wrap-up the three-game weekend series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday at Pioneer Park.

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