Knights win with a walk-off in ESAC Championship, set school record for victories

Smiling man with dark-blue shirt collar showing

By Paul Miller

Knightly News Co-Adviser

The Central Penn College Knights were victorious in Tuesday’s Eastern State Athletic Conference (ESAC) Championship game, beating the Williamson Trade Mechanics by a score of 7-6 from FNB Field on City Island in Harrisburg.

The win secured back-to-back ESAC titles for the Knights, winning the 2023 championship game against Bucks County Community just less than a year ago. Also, in the process, the Knights set a single-season wins record, as they won 22 contests during the 2024 campaign, winning 12 of their final 15 games en route to the impressive mark.

The game was full of twists and turns, seeing the Knights overcome multiple deficits during the course of the 9-inning affair.

The game was started by Wyatt Koser, the pitcher who has been most impressive over the course of the past several turns in the rotation. Koser has been a leader for the Knights on the season, first on the team in wins (4) while also pacing Central Penn with 30 strikeouts.

To lead off the game, Koser allowed a walk to Williamson Trade’s Michael Krakovitz, who quickly made his way to second base. To end the inning, Owen Zell made a terrific unassisted double play on a line drive from Cody Grande to get the Knights out of the inning.

In the bottom of the second, Adam Hoover reached base on a walk, then David Thomas reached on an error. Cameron Smiley followed that up with a double that rolled to the wall, scoring Hoover and Thomas, giving the Knights a 2-0 lead.

The Mechanics would answer in the top of the third inning, as four consecutive baserunners reached off of Koser, capped off with a Joshua Illing RBI double and a Grande RBI single that plated two runs.

Trailing 3-2, the Knights answered in the bottom of the third inning as Nic Joseph singled and scored on a wild pitch, tying the game at three.

Koser was able to make it through four quality innings, allowing the three runs before ceding to senior pitcher Zachary Haefner. Haefner was able to keep the Mechanics at bay in the fifth inning with a quick 1-2-3 inning to swing the momentum back to Central Penn.

The Knights struck again in the bottom of the fifth, with a walk by Zach Boyer and back-to-back RBI singles by Tanner McCoy and Hoover, allowing Central Penn to take a 5-3 lead.

But Williamson Trade answered again in the top of the sixth, with three consecutive singles from their 7-8-9 hitters. Grande singled again, driving in two more, and Joe Kelly singled to drive in another. With this offensive barrage in the sixth, the Mechanics regained the lead 6-5.

Starting pitcher for Williamson Trade Jacob Naumann silenced the Knights in the sixth and seventh innings and quickly got two outs in the eighth inning after allowing a single to Hoover. As Tyrone Tobin came in to pinch-run for Hoover, he was moved over on a sacrifice bunt. With the game on the line, Owen Zell came up huge, with a clutch base hit back up the middle to plate the tying run.

Even after a rocky inning in the sixth, Haefner was able to regain his composure in the seventh and eighth innings, only allowing one baserunner.

After tying the game in the bottom of the eighth, head coach Robert Stern went to Boyer in the ninth, and he did not disappoint. Facing the 4-5-6 hitters for the Mechanics, Boyer struck out Kelly, induced a weak grounder from Michael Ashton, and fanned Patrick Jones to give his team a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth. And win they did.

With one out in the inning, the Knights were able to muster three consecutive singles, as Joseph and Gabe Kaufman both put together amazing at-bats to get on base. And, after working the count to 3-2, McCoy took a pitch back up the middle to plate Joseph with the walk-off single.

McCoy was awarded the Knightly News Player of the Game honors, going 2-for-5 with a run, 2 RBI, and the walk-off base hit that will live in infamy in Summerdale.

In his final game for the Knights, Hoover went 2-for-2 with 1 run and 1 RBI, reaching base all four times he stepped into the batter’s box. Smiley went 2-for-4 with 1 RBI. Boyer picked up the win on the mound in his final game for Central Penn.

For the Knights, it was a game full of emotion, overcoming two deficits in the contest. The Knights showed their true grit in battling back, illustrating why baseball is a team game.

With back-to-back ESAC titles to their name, the Knights surprisingly were not selected for the USCAA Small College World Series. Regardless of that fact, the Knights set a school record with 22 victories on the season, including the ESAC title on Tuesday.

This is a season that will go down in the record books and the Central Penn College Knights baseball team should be unbelievably proud of their accomplishments this season. And while folks like Boyer, Haefner and Hoover all will ride off into the sunset, the future is poised to be bright for coach Stern’s team into the future.