Erie cools down; baseball heats up

Members of the Gannon University baseball team have put on their hitting shoes.

Gannon scored 47 runs while sweeping a four-game series Clarion University over the weekend, which resulted in the Knights grabbing sole possession of first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s Western Division.

“We’ve really been putting together quality at-bats, which have led to some real good innings,” coach Nate Cocolin said. “Any time you get two or three runs in an inning, we consider that a good inning, and we’ve been doing that a lot recently.”

The Knights, who carry an overall record of 16-10 and 6-2 in the PSAC West, have found their stroke at the plate.

Gannon’s sweep over Clarion (5-11 overall, 4-4 PSAC West) consisted of 15-10 and 4-3 wins Friday, before the Knights turned around and registered 8-2 and 20-4 victories Sunday at Gannon University Field.

Gannon also swept a double-header against non-conference Alderson-Broaddus College Tuesday at Gannon University Field. The Knights won by scores of 5-3 and 5-4.

Junior first baseman Terry Carson had a walk-off hit in the seventh inning to give the Knights the nightcap.

But the Knights’ offensive hot streak hasn’t happened without persistence, according to Cocolin.

“Patience is a word for it, but a lot of hard work has certainly gone into it as well,” he said. “A lot of guys have come in and worked on their own time to get their repetitions in, so it hasn’t been that they’re just waiting for it to come around as much as it is working toward it.”

Gannon failed to reach double-digit runs in any of the season’s first 16 games, during which time they scored 50 runs. Since opening PSAC West play against Slippery Rock University on March 17, the Knights have exploded for 20 runs on two separate occasions and added a 15-spot in the last two weeks. In all, Gannon has scored 81 runs

And the Knights are hoping to hear the ping sound a few more times.

“Everything’s clicking obviously for me and the team right now,” Evan Baglieri, senior third baseman, said. “We have a great group of guys and we all work hard together to make each other better.”

The 47 runs on 52 hits in the Clarion series marked the first time since at least 1999 that the Knights have scored as many runs in a four-game series.

And the Knights have to look no further than the heart of their order for the culprits.

Hitting in the second, third and fourth hole, senior shortstop Tim Lipp, junior outfielder Michael Tomko and Baglieri batted a combined .558 in the Clarion series in which they drove in 29 runs and crossed the plate 16 times.

These Knights reached their summit Sunday, when they went off for a video-game-like 11-for-13 with nine runs and 15 RBIs.

Baglieri provided the timeliest offense in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader, when his walk-off two-out single over the shortstop’s head capped a seventh-inning rally.

“They were pitching me a lot of off-speed all day so I was sitting on it for that at-bat and luckily the pitcher left one up and I got enough of it to win the game,” said Baglieri, who leads the team in hits, RBIs and ranks second as of Tuesday with a .375 batting average.

Gannon’s pitching staff has also found some success recently. The Knights rank second in the PSAC West with a 3.99 team ERA, and have enjoyed contributions throughout their balanced rotation.

Senior ace Paul McKenna has a 5-1 record with a 3.15 ERA, while freshman Matt Tobin has contributed with a 2-2 mark and 1.88 ERA.

“(Pitching) is what kept us together when we went 7-5 in our Florida trip, it certainly wasn’t our offense,” Cocolin said. “But now that our offense has come around, the game plan for our pitching staff is a lot less stressful.

“Our pitching staff doesn’t want our team to be known as just an offensive team, and our offense doesn’t want us to be known just as a pitching team, so there’s so good friendly competition going on.”

The first-place Knights return to the diamond Friday against Lock Haven University (3-5, 7-15-1), with the double-header beginning at 1 p.m.

 

JOE CUNEO

[email protected]