Three Pioneers combine on 3-0 shutout of No. 18 Belmont Abbey

Zach Slagle pitched six shutout innings with six strikeouts in Tusculum's 3-0 win over No. 18 Belmont Abbey (photo by Chris Lenker)
Zach Slagle pitched six shutout innings with six strikeouts in Tusculum's 3-0 win over No. 18 Belmont Abbey (photo by Chris Lenker)

BELMONT, N.C. --- Three Tusculum pitchers combined on a seven-hit shutout as the Pioneers blanked 18th-ranked Belmont Abbey 3-0 Friday at Abbey Yard in a rematch of two teams that met in last year's NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

Tusculum (2-3) records its first shutout of a nationally-ranked team since a 4-0 win at No. 30 Carson-Newman in game two of a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader on March 17, 2007.  TC's last nine-inning shutout of a ranked foe was May 19, 2007 in a 3-0 win over No. 9 Tampa in the opening game of the 2005 NCAA Division II South Regional in Lakeland, Florida.

The pitching trio of Zach Slagle, Chase McAllister and McKenly Berry worked out of several jams as the Crusaders left 10 runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

Slagle pitched six strong innings, scattered four hits, walked three and posted six strikeouts as he left runners in scoring position on four occasions before working a perfect sixth inning in his last frame.

Tusculum got all the offense it would need in the top of the third inning on Nick Lacina's two-run, one-out single to right field, driving in Cole Baxley and Edison Cabrera.

In the bottom of the fourth, Belmont Abbey (3-3) got two runners aboard with one out, but Slagle ended the threat with a double-play ground out.  In the bottom of the fifth frame, the Crusaders put runners on the corners with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts from Slagle preserved the 2-0 lead.

Chase McAllister relieved Slagle in the bottom of the seventh and was greeted by Kennan Stanley with a lead-off double to left.  But McAllister bounced back with a ground out, a fly out and a strikeout with a runner at third to end the threat.  The Crusaders mounted a two-out rally in the eighth when Josh Genthe and Kayden Krause put the tying runs aboard with back-to-back singles.  Berry relieved McAllister and got a fly out to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, senior catcher Cole Baxley added an insurance run with his two-out solo homer to left field for a 3-0 lead.  Berry walked the lead-off batter to start the ninth, but retired the next three batters, including two strikeouts to end the game.

Each team finished with seven hits on the day as TC's John Topoleski tallied a pair of singles, while Krause and Thomas Yoder tallied two hits apiece for the Crusaders.

The two teams will wrap up the three-game weekend series on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at noon.