2024 Knightly News Baseball Awards

Smiling man with blue dress shirt and tie knot showing

By Paul Miller

Knightly News Co-Adviser and Knights Play-by-Play Commentator

paulmiller@centralpenn.edu

Photos by Gabryelle Breski

Knightly News President and Sports Photographer

gabryelle.breski@mymail.centralpenn.edu

As The Knightly News celebrated its seventh year of broadcasting our Central Penn College Knights baseball team, we also celebrate the most successful team we have ever witnessed. Headlined by seven seniors, who are, in some cases, playing their fifth season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this team was the most complete and exciting that we have seen during our time involved with broadcasting Knights baseball.

Still, the season was filled with its fair share of ups and downs, starting with their opening day, as they traveled to North Carolina to open their season back in February. With opening day getting washed out, the Knights were only able to get two games in on their trip to the south, losing both games to the tough Mid-Atlantic Christian team. This continued into the early season, as the Knights dropped four of their first five games to start the campaign, certainly not the beginning they expected with so much anticipation this year.

But something clicked with the Knights after a 12-11 defeat to Williamson Trade on March 13, as they would proceed to rattle off an incredible run, winning an eye-raising eight consecutive games.

Sitting at 9-4 on April 7, the Knights again found themselves in a slump, losing five of their next six games. But as the Knights came into their final stretch of the season, including their final two home dates, something caught fire for Central Penn. The Knights went on a blistering run to close the season, winning 10 of their final 12 games, including an exciting doubleheader sweep against Christendom on Senior Night and a thrilling Eastern States Athletic Conference (ESAC) Championship game win versus Williamson Trade. With that victory, the Knights became back-to-back ESAC Conference Champions in what might have been one of the most memorable games in Central Penn College history.

With the twists and turns of the season, the Knights were able to set some incredible milestones. Of course, winning the ESAC Championship is at the top of the list of accomplishments on the season. But equally as impressive were the 22 victories the team racked up throughout the schedule, setting a new school record, including 12 home victories and a 14-3 conference record.

Because of this monumental season, The Knightly News recognizes 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 PlayerOwen Zell

It is without question that Zell is the “straw that stirs the drink” for the Knights. In addition to his eye-popping 43 steals, Zell was one of the most consistent defenders at the keystone this season. In 32 games played during the 2024 campaign, Zell only had six total errors, making 43 putouts and adding 44 assists. He also was a part of six double plays and had an amazing .935 fielding percentage. In one of his most important plays of the season, Zell made an unassisted double play to keep Williamson Trade off the board in the first inning of the ESAC title game. His leadership on the team as the perennial lead-off hitter, a feared base stealer and a stellar defender make him the clear victor for this award.

Award #2 — Rookie of the Year — Tanner McCoy

This was the most difficult award to determine on the season, as several freshman Knights played considerable roles on the 2024 ESAC title team. But it was McCoy who rose to the top. While it is easy to point to his game-winning RBI in the bottom of the ninth inning of the ESAC Championship game as his crowning moment, McCoy was one of the most clutch hitters in the middle of the Knights’ order. But McCoy certainly earned his playing time this season. While McCoy was not an everyday fixture in the lineup early in the year, an injury to Adam Hoover cleared room for him to get regular at-bats from the first and third base positions. And all he did was deliver.

Here are his team rankings for statistics this season:

  • Hits – 27 – 5th
  • RBIs – 30 – 2nd
  • Average – .365 – 3rd (over 25 at-bats)
  • Steals – 14 – 4th
  • Fielding Percentage – .986 (only one error this season)

Honorable Mention: David Thomas, Nic Joseph

Award #3 – The Shohei Ohtani Award – Best Combined Pitcher/Hitter – Cameron Smiley

To discuss Smiley’s efforts on the season are to illustrate the amazing gains he has made in just one year. While Smiley played a considerable role behind the plate last season, playing in 22 games, he only had one appearance on the mound in his freshman campaign. But, in 2024, Smiley was one of the aces on the mound for the Knights.

On the offensive side of the ball, Smiley was a steady contributor. While his .364 battling average was certainly respectable, his eye at the plate was key. Smiley tallied 15 walks in 48 plate appearances, propelling his on-base percentage to .563, coming in second on the team (25+ at-bats). With this tremendous walk rate, Smiley totaled a .957 OPS on the season, a needed element from their backstop.

On the defensive side of the ball, his work behind the plate was nothing short of stellar. With only one error on 78 total chances, his .987 fielding percentage was second on the team (20+ TC). Smiley also kept opponent baserunners at bay, throwing out two attempted base stealers on the season.

Smiley was an impact player on the mound, going 3-2 in seven appearances (four starts) and finishing third on the team in innings pitched. His 3.86 ERA was third on the team (10+ innings), adding a complete game to the mix.

Award #4 – Cy Young Award – Best Pitcher – Wyatt Koser

Coming into this season, it was obvious to Knights fans that Koser would be an integral part of the pitching staff for the team to be successful. In 2023, Koser was electric, yes, but also wild, walking 15 batters in 19 2/3 innings, but he made significant in-roads on his control in 2024. He was 4-1 across 34 innings pitched, just a third of an inning from the team lead. Koser showed improved control, with only 21 walks across those 34 innings, and tossed dominant home starts with a shutout on April 15 against Lehigh Carbon Community College and a six-inning, one-run effort on Senior Night against Christendom.

Another sign of Koser’s dominance was that he was named the starting pitcher for the Knights for the ESAC Championship game. And while he was not as sharp as he had been in the previous efforts, he showed grit and determination, keeping his team in the game and exiting with a tied ballgame.

Here are his team rankings for statistics this season:

  • Innings Pitched – 34 – 2nd
  • Total Appearances – 9 – 2nd
  • Wins – 4 – 1st
  • Strikeouts – 30 – 1st
  • Complete Games – 1 – tied for 1st

Honorable Mention: Dalton Koller

Award #5 – Most Valuable Player – Zach Boyer

While in 2023, Boyer edged out Nathan Wise for MVP honors, he was clearly the odds-on favorite for much of the season. Frankly, Boyer’s numbers were nothing short of spectacular, even flirting with a .500 batting average down to the last game of the season. One of his largest accomplishments on the season was setting a school record in RBI, knocking in 40 runs on the campaign. He set another school record by compiling 50 hits on the season, breaking Todd Cook’s previous record of 36 back in 2017. His 1.357 OPS is unbelievable, capped off with 20 extra base hits and five home runs.

If that was not enough, Boyer was elite on the mound in his four appearances, picking up two wins, including in the ESAC Championship game, only allowing two runs on the season. In addition, Boyer’s glove at both third base and shortstop was spectacular, often keeping the Knights in the game with his cannon arm and excellent range.

Being named MVP is nothing new, representing back-to-back seasons picking up the award. But this year, what was impressive was the sheer dominance of his game during his senior season. While it is sad to see Boyer ride off into the sunset, his time here will be forever remembered.

Here are his team rankings for statistics this season:

  • Runs – 42 – 1st
  • Hits – 50 – 1st
  • Doubles – 14 – 1st
  • Home Runs – 5 – 1st
  • RBIs – 40 – 1st
  • Total Bases – 81 – 1st
  • Extra Base Hits – 20 – 1st

As the season concludes with a back-to-back title, seeing seven of our Knights finish their careers at Central Penn College is a bittersweet moment. However, with the amazing rookie seasons for McCoy, Thomas and Joseph, as well as the return of Zell, Koller and Koser, the Knights looked poised to defend their ESAC crown in 2025.

I concluded my 2023 awards column with the following lines, “What is most memorable, though, is that this historic team will never be forgotten. Setting the school record for most wins in a season and bringing home the team’s first-ever ESAC Championship to Summerdale will clearly be remembered by anyone associated with Knights athletics.” Honestly, these words resonate even more so with the 2024 team, except that they were able to defend their title. This two-year run has been as memorable as any span across the history of Knights athletics and will continue to be a force in the USCAA conference with the team they have in place.

It is obvious that the future is bright for the Knights. We look forward to seeing you back on the field in March 2025 for another season of Knights baseball!


The Knightly News would like to thank the following members for their roles in baseball coverage during the 2024 season:

Paul Miller, Thomas Davis, Ph.D., Steve Hassinger, Tyler Coleman, Parker Rose — commentary

Gabryelle Breski — photography, production and sideline reporting

Andrew Hunter — reporting and game wraps