26. TUSCULUM PIONEERS (48-10)
Final 2012 Ranking: 8
The Pioneers started last season unranked but won their way into the top five after starting the season 15-0 and twice had streaks of 14 consecutive wins. TC was in the driver’s seat in the Southeast Regional after winning their first two games but their season came to an abrupt end with back-to-back less than 24 later. The Pioneers did win the second most games in school and conference history and their .828 won-loss percentage set a new single-season school mark. Replicating those numbers will be a tough task for Coach Doug Jones. The Pioneers lost several crucial cogs of last season’s success, but as last season indicates Tusculum can be a worthy postseason adversary and shouldn’t be counted out.
The Pioneers do have a pair of solid starters back on the mound in Taylor Rakes and Adam Sigmon. Rakes is a Tino Martinez Award candidate after finishing last season with a 10-1 record, 3.18 ERA with four complete games and only 19 walks in 85 innings pitched. Sigmon earned eight wins himself with a 4.07 ERA. Sigmon or incoming transfer Cody Poarch, a former St. Louis Cardinals’ draft pick who went 15-6 in two seasons with the Walters State CC Senators, will have to step up big to replace the departed arm of Al American Craig Goodman. John-Austin Shepard, who was solid as a closer with a eight saves in 20 appearances with 39 K’s in 30.1 innings pitched will also be back in Tusculum.
Missing from the TC offense will be sluggers Cody Coffman and Alexi Colon who batted .417 and hit 21 homeruns respectively; however the team ranked ninth nationally in batting average last season, and does returns a handful of bats which will make every inning a battle for opposing pitchers. Former Louisville Cardinal Cade Stallings is the top returning hitter from last year’s club. Stalling hit .367 with 11 homeruns from the heart of the Pioneer lineup. Both 2B Matt Henriksen and 1B Heath Comerford hit .317 last season and Trey Drewery, who had last season cut short due to injury, should be back to full strength after hitting .324 in 2011.