Pioneers Wilke named SAC Championship co-MVP

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Tusculum College senior first baseman Creighton Wilke was named Co-Most Valuable Player of the 2016 Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship, the league office announced Tuesday.

Wilke was one of seven Pioneers named to the All-Tournament team, as Tusculum shared the championship with Catawba after rain forced the cancellation of the final game. Joining Wilke on the All-Tournament team were outfielder J.J. Wesley, designated hitter Nick Lacina, third baseman John Topoleski, and pitchers Placido Torres, Devan Watts and Zach Slagle.

Wilke had two of the biggest hits in the tournament for the Pioneers, as he hit a three-run home run in the top of the 11th inning to give Tusculum a 9-6 win over Wingate in an elimination game on Sunday. Later that night, Wilke hit a grand slam as the Pioneers rallied from a five-run deficit to defeat Carson-Newman 9-7 and advance to the championship round.

The Lincoln, Nebraska native slugged .524 in the tournament and drove in a team-high seven runs, and also drew a pair of walks and scored four runs. The All-SAC honorable mention performer and Gold Glove winner is hitting .354 with eight home runs and a team-high 43 runs batted in this season.

Wesley hit a team-high .476 (10-for-21) in five games for the Pioneers, leading the team with his 10 hits. Wesley drove in a pair of runs and scored four times, while playing errorless ball in centerfield.

Wesley, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, has a .314 batting average for the Pioneers in 32 games with a home runs, eight runs batted in and four stolen bases.

Lacina batted .368 during the tournament for the Pioneers, with five runs batted in. He knocked in a pair of runs in a 3-0 win over Lincoln Memorial in the team’s tournament opener on Friday night, then had three runs batted in for Tusculum in the comeback win over Carson-Newman. The St. Paul, Minnesota product had two of the team’s four doubles and drew four walks during the weekend.

A junior, Lacina is hitting a team-best .380 with two home runs and 29 runs batted in this season. Lacina also has a team-high 16 doubles and is fourth on the team with 17 walks.

Topoleski hit .316 with three runs batted in and two runs scored for the Pioneers in five games at the SAC Championship, while playing errorless ball in 16 chances at third base. Topoleski hit safely in four of the Pioneers’ five games, including 2-for-6 with two RBIs in the extra-inning win against Wingate.

The junior from Lawrenceville, Georgia is batting .310 with a home run and 30 runs batted in this season for Tusculum, with seven doubles and 26 runs scored to go along with a team-best 11 sacrifice bunts.

Torres fired his sixth complete game and fourth shutout of the season as the Pioneers beat Lincoln Memorial 3-0 in their tournament opener on Friday. The senior lefty from New Brunswick, New Jersey struck out nine and allowed four hits in his sixth complete game and fourth shutout of the season.

The SAC Pitcher of the Year is 10-0 with a miniscule 0.67 earned run average in 13 starts for the Pioneers this season. Torres has set school single-season records for shutouts with four, innings pitched with 107 and strikeouts with 150, while holding opponents to a .149 batting average.

Watts came through with two victories in two appearances during the SAC Championships, including the win in Tusculum’s 6-5 rain-shortened victory over Catawba on Monday that resulted in co-champions being named. Watts threw 8 1/3 innings in his two appearances, allowing seven hits while striking out five. Watts also earned the win in the Pioneers’ victory over Wingate with 5 1/3 scoreless innings of relief work.

The junior righthander from Mooresville, North Carolina is 2-4 with a team-high five saves and a 3.38 earned run average in 18 relief appearances this season. Watts has struck out 57 batters in 45 1/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .230 batting avearage.

Slagle made two appearances out of the bullpen for the Pioneers during the weekend, earning the win in the Pioneers’ 9-7 victory over Carson-Newman by working the final 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on three hits while striking out five. Overall, the lefty had a 4.05 earned run average in 6 2/3 innings during the tournament.

The junior from Powell, Tennessee has a 7-1 record with a 3.02 earned run average in 15 appearances for the Pioneers this season, including six starts. Slagle, who ranks second to Torres on the staff in wins and ERA, has worked 53 2/3 innings this season and struck out 35 batters, with opponents hitting .250 against him.

Catawba senior Will Albertson was named Co-MVP with Wilke, and was one of seven Indians also named to the All-Tournament team. Carson-Newman and Wingate each placed two players on the team.
– TC –

2016 South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team
Connor Johnson, Catawba
Bryan Blanton, Catawba
Kyle Smith, Catawba
Jake Kimble, Catawba
Zach Almond, Catawba
Dylan Richardson, Catawba
Will Albertson, Catawba (Co-MVP)
Creighton Wilke, Tusculum (Co-MVP)
J.J. Wesley, Tusculum
Nick Lacina, Tusculum
Placido Torres, Tusculum
Devan Watts, Tusculum
Zach Slagle, Tusculum
John Topoleski, Tusculum
Cade Snapp, Carson-Newman
Dustin Batson, Carson-Newman
Shane Billings, Wingate
Bradley Brown, Wingate


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