By Paul Miller
Knightly News Co-Adviser
Photos by Dylan Bowman
Knightly News Photographer
It has always been my dream to cover baseball and, for three months every year, I have the honor of doing that with the Central Penn Knights. Starting in the 2018 season, the Knightly News has covered Knights baseball. While 2018 and 2019 were learning experiences, 2020 was poised to be a year that both the team and the club took a huge leap. That is until the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 started off as promising as any season, with the Knights starting off 7-1 before the season was ultimately postponed. Even in 2021, the Knights were only able to play 18 games due to the aftermath of the pandemic and protocols associated with the virus.
But 2022 was the year. The year that the Knights managed the most wins (16) and best winning percentage (.571) in the history of the program. The year that baseball returned to City Island, as the Knights played eight games at FNB Field, home of the Harrisburg Senators. The year that the Knights had their highest attendance ever, with anywhere from 500-600 people attending Community Night at FNB Field on April 22.
Personally, this season was as gratifying as any I’ve been a part of. This year did not have the feeling of either of the two previous seasons, as schedules were more open and COVID protocols were relaxed. Also, key returning veterans were back and many impact freshman players joined the mix. And the players did not disappoint.
Because of this monumental season, The Knightly News wanted to recognize five players with special awards. The categories are as follows:
- Most Valuable Player – Best all-around player
- Cy Young Award – Best pitcher
- The Shohei Ohtani Award – Best combined pitcher/hitter
- Rookie of the Year – Best freshman player
- Gold Glove – Best defensive player
This article will use important baseball statistics that may be new to some of our readers. Below is a key for abbreviations used in the article.
- OBP – On-Base Percentage – The number of times someone got on base versus the number of plate appearances
- OPS – On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage.
- Slugging Percentage – Total bases/at-bats
Award #1 – Gold Glove – Best Defensive Player – Owen Zell
As a freshman, Zell immediately walked into the season as the starting second baseman and a stalwart at the top of the order. While Zell had an excellent offensive season (.316 average, a .494 OBP and a team-leading 14 steals), it was his defense that was most impressive. In 21 games, Zell had a .942 fielding percentage at the keystone, with 35 putouts, 14 assists and four double plays. At a difficult infield position, Zell only had three errors on the season. Look out for the Zach Boyer-Owen Zell double-play combination in 2023.
Award #2 – Rookie of the Year – Shais Roman
When you see Roman play, he immediately makes you say “Wow.” His impact on the team was felt on both sides of the ball, making dynamic plays in center field and becoming a fixture in the number three slot in the batting order throughout the season. On the defensive side, Roman had a perfect 1.000% fielding percentage with 50 putouts. In addition, he made several key defensive plays, consistently robbing offensive opponents of runs throughout the season.
Offensively, his numbers are staggering. Below are his team rankings for statistics this season:
- Runs – 26 – 1st
- Hits – 26 – 1st
- Doubles – 6 – 2nd
- Triples – 2 – Tied for 1st
- RBI – 26 – Tied for 1st
- Steals – 13 – 2nd
- Batting Average – .342 – 2nd* (Over 20 ABs)
- Total Bases – 39 – 1st
This season, Roman’s impact was clearly felt. With his unique skill set of home run power, lightning-quick speed and patience at the plate, Roman had the largest impact of any freshman on the team. Look for him to man center field for the Knights in 2023.
Award #3 – The Shohei Ohtani Award – Best Combined Pitcher/Hitter – Adam Hoover
Hoover was fantastic this season for the Knights, both at the plate and on the mound. As a pitcher, Hoover was an integral part of the Knights staff, notching two wins and finishing second on the team with a 2.53 ERA. Hoover started two games on the season and came in as a reliever in crucial spots, often getting the team out of a jam when given the call.
Offensively, Hoover had video-game numbers across the board, reaching base in more than half of his plate appearances (.549 OBP). In addition, Hoover had a .313 batting average and finished with eight RBIs in 32 at-bats, only striking out four times. His selectiveness at the plate made Hoover an on-base machine, consistently getting on for the players behind him in the line-up. Hoover will be a key returning player on the mound and at third base next season.
Award #4 – Cy Young Award – Best Pitcher – Dalton Koller
Freshman Dalton Koller was electric in the rotation during the 2022 season. In his first season with the Knights, Koller quickly became a leader of the pitching staff in drawing starts on both Opening Day and the inaugural ESAC Championship game.
On the season, Koller appeared in seven games (starting four) and was tied for the team lead with four wins. In addition, Koller had the best ERA on the team (2.45) and led the team in strikeouts (24). In total, Koller only allowed nine earned runs on the season, only walking 11 in 33 innings pitched. Look for Koller to lead the Knights rotation in 2023.
Award #5 – Most Valuable Player – Steven Armstrong
To talk about junior catcher Steven Armstrong is to give a laundry list of achievements. First, Armstrong hit a Knights record two grand slams in 2022, including a mammoth shot to left field on April 22 at FNB Field to put the game out of reach against Williamson Trade. Beyond that, Armstrong ranked near the top of nearly all offensive categories on the team.
Below are his team rankings for statistics this season:
- Home Runs – 5 – 1st
- RBI – 26 – Tied for 1st
- Steals – 10 – 3rd
- Slugging Percentage – .556 – 1st
- OPS – 1.001 – 1st
- Walks – 19 – 1st
In addition to his offensive prowess, Armstrong played the most difficult position on the field, catcher. Not only did he need to focus on the offensive side of the ball, Armstrong also had to work with the pitching staff, often catching both games of a doubleheader this season. Defensively, he had a .977 fielding percentage with only two errors, while also throwing out four baserunners on the season.
Looking back at the season, it is clear that Head Coach Robert Stern’s Knights made tremendous improvements, both on the mound and with the bat. With the level of returning players that the team has next season and additional recruits joining the fray, it is safe to say that Knights baseball will continue to have a chance to battle for a ticket to the Small College World Series.
Paul Miller is an assistant professor of media studies at Central Penn College. Miller also is on the broadcast team for Knights baseball on The Knightly News Media Club YouTube channel.