Knights split series with eleventh-ranked ‘Hurst

Despite going into the record book as four-game split against rival Mercyhurst College, the Gannon University baseball team can come away from it weekend’s games feeling like winners.

The No. 11-ranked Lakers, who have outscored opponents by nearly 80 runs on the year, were stymied by a Gannon pitching staff that limited them to only 12 runs in the four-game series.

The Knights and Lakers each grabbed a game Friday as Gannon beat up Mercyhurst ace Nick Gillung for three earned runs in the 5-1 win.  The Lakers won the next two games, including a 3-2 12-inning affair Saturday before Gannon would rebound with 6-2 victory.

“I was pretty satisfied with going in there and taking two from them,” said junior pitcher Mark Carlozzi, who pitched a four-hit complete game in Gannon’s win Saturday. “As long as we play like we know how, we can play with anyone.”

The split comes at a good time for the 6-10 Knights after they started the season off with a sub-par spring trip to Florida in which they allowed more than five runs eight separate times.

Gannon will use its decisions against Mercyhurst to start itself in the right direction as it attempts to build on last year’s season, which saw the Knights fall one game short of reaching a .500 record for the first time since record for the first time since 1985.

“It was a big confidence booster for us after struggling in Florida,” said redshirt freshman Lou Downey who is second on the team with a .313 batting average. “We can be in every inning, every game.”

The Knights’ renewed competitiveness can be attributed to awakening in the batters box as they have found ways to manufacture runs since returning from Florida.

“You need all nine guys hitting to be successful,” Downey said. “They key to hitting is stringing together a few quality at bats.”

Downey is one of the Knights that have taken advantage of the increased time at the plate while teammates have battled through early season slumps. The second basemen has hit safely in eight of 11 games since cracking the lineup while finishing behind only leftfielder Michael Tomko in on-base percentage.

“I’m just taking things pitch by pitch and trying to make adjustments,” Downey said. “It’s about knowing the situations and your role on the team.”

Although the hitting has improved, according to Downey it has been the pitching which is keeping Gannon afloat as Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play starts.

“Everything starts with pitching,” he said. “When you come out and establish a strike zone early, it keeps you in the game and gives the offense more time to score.”

Carlozzi, who leads the Knights with two wins, said that the team’s new pitching strategy on the mound has paid dividends early in the season.

“Coach [Cocolin] has helped us a lot with our approach,” Carlozzi said. “We want to go out and attack the hitter, throw strikes and not give them any free passes.”

Carlozzi, who has lowered his ERA by over seven points since last year, leads a much different, yet improved staff that has as many holdovers as new faces.

“This year I’m finally putting it all together,” he said. “I’m trying to lead by example – go out there, have fun and throw and hopefully the guys will kind of run with it.”

And Run with it they have. Gannon, which is tied for second in the PSAC West division, is brimming with confidence heading into its Friday doubleheader against Indiana (Pa.) University at Gannon University Field.

“The sky is the limit,” Downey said. “We’ve shown we can hang with the ranked opponents. There is no reason we can’t win this division.”

ZACK MCDERMOTT

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