Running it back: The story of the Central Penn Knights’ 2024 baseball season

School-record season leaves the ESAC champs looking forward to next season

Young man smiling, long hair back and black T-shirt

By Dalton Koller

Knightly News Reporter and Sports Columnist

dalton.koller@mymail.centralpenn.edu

The Central Penn College Knights’ season is closed and with the Knights repeating as Eastern States Athletic Conference champions, I would say the season was a success.

We didn’t reach our goal of making the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Conference Small College World Series like we wanted, but we broke a school record for wins in a single season and we’re the first team in school history to repeat as ESAC champions in any sport.

Victorious Knights — second year in a row. Photo courtesy Central Penn Athletics

Many things had to go right for this team to win anything, and that’s even more true based on how our season started.

Outgoing seniors are always something a college team has to overcome, and with our recruiting class of frosh players and transfer students, I’d say we did a pretty good job of doing just that.

But before the season even started, our starting shortstop most of last year, Nathan Wise, sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm and would miss the entire 2024 season.

Lighting the fire

To start the season, the Knights were not playing their best baseball, getting swept in a doubleheader by Mid-Atlantic Christian in North Carolina, followed by two split doubleheaders against Penn State Schuylkill and Williamson Trade.

After that, the Knights would go on a seven-game win streak, sweeping Delaware County Community College, Penn State Hazleton and Bucks County Community College in doubleheaders, followed by a split doubleheader against Christendom College.

Including the loss to Christendom College in the second game of that doubleheader, the Knights would go on to lose the next four contests, getting swept by Penn State Brandywine in a doubleheader and losing a single game to Penn State Schuylkill.

After that, they split a doubleheader against Lehigh Carbon Community College, beat Penn State Brandywine in a single game, split Penn State Shenango in a doubleheader, and drew a loss to Lehigh Carbon in a single game.

Swinging past the midpoint

At this point, the team record stood at 12 wins and 11 losses, which is a decent start but not as great as the team had hoped. But after the next stretch of games, the Knights would see their season take a huge turn in the right direction.

The Knights went on to win their next eight games, sweeping Williamson Trade and Christendom in doubleheaders, and Manor College in consecutive doubleheaders.

Following a loss to Albright College in a single game, and a split of a doubleheader against Bucks County, the Knights found themselves with their first 20-win season in school history and in their third consecutive ESAC championship game. But this time, the Knights would be the home team, and the game would be at FNB Field, on City Island, in Harrisburg.

The Knights faced Williamson Trade in the ESAC championship game, and after the first three innings, the teams were tied at 3. The Knights would score two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, but Williamson Trade responded with three runs in the top of the sixth, taking a 6-5 lead.

Things were starting to look bleak for the Knights’ championship hopes with Williamson Trade’s starting pitcher settling in and taking control of the game, but that’s when things started to take a turn for the better for the Knights.

In the bottom of the eighth, Owen Zell drove in the tying run with a clutch single up the middle with two outs. Then, senior Zach Boyer came in to keep the score tied in the top of the ninth, and he did exactly that. Going into the bottom of the ninth, the score remained 6-6, and the Knights were looking to end it there and complete the comeback in epic fashion.

Turning up the heat

In the bottom of the ninth, Gabe Kaufman and Nic Joseph each hit frozen rope singles (fast throws, particularly from the outfield) which put runners on first and second with one out. Then, up stepped  frosh player Tanner McCoy, who was 1-4 coming into this at-bat, and he had a chance to come up huge.

After a long at-bat for McCoy that went to a full count, he slapped a ground ball up the middle past the pitcher and the shortstop, Joseph would come around to score the game-winning run, ending the game and making the Knights back-to-back ESAC champions.

Unfortunately, the Knights learned before the game that they did not make a berth into the USCAA Small College World Series, but it was still nice for the team to end the season on a very high note, with a 22-12 record.

Next year, the team is looking to win their third straight ESAC championship, and if they do so, they will be given their first birth into the national tournament in the program’s history.

Although it’ll be difficult to replace some of the seniors who won’t be here next season, the team is excited to see what some of the recruits can do to help fill some big shoes.

The Knights are ready for next season, and will look forward to defending their ESAC championship status and making it three consecutive championships. After that, they will work to take their berth in the Small College World Series and make it into a long run all the way to the finals.

If you want to learn who won the Knightly News Baseball Awards this season, visit www.cpcknightlynews.com.


Koller is also vice president of The Knightly News Media Club @ Central Penn College.

Comment or questions? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.