Knights poised for playoff run

The last time Gannon University’s baseball team won as many games as it lost in the same season, Michael Tomko, the Knights’ cleanup hitter, couldn’t even handle a bat.

In fact the junior slugger, who leads Gannon’s team in seven offensive categories, wasn’t even born.

However, he and the rest of the 21-17 Knights are trying to reach .500 at the season’s end for the first time since 1985 and earn their first postseason berth in school history.

They’re not trying to rewrite history; they’re trying to write a first draft.

Gannon gets its chance when it takes on California and Mercyhurst universities in the upcoming weekends. Both teams that are tied with the Knights for first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West division –

“This is probably the biggest series this program has ever had,” said Tomko, who, at .357, boasts the 17th best batting average in the PSAC.

And that might not be an understatement. Just four years removed from an 8-36 season, Gannon has a legitimate shot of not only making the playoffs but earning the West division’s top seed.

Tied with Mercyhurst and Cal with a 10-6 PSAC record, the Knights sit two games ahead of fourth-place Slippery Rock University. The top four teams from each division make the postseason.

Despite being consistent dance partners with sub-.500 records, coach Nate Cocolin said that this season’s success isn’t a surprise to anyone.

“When we first got here we sat down and make goals and this we looked at this year as the year we could reach these goals,” Cocolin said. “It’d be nice to see them get what they’ve been working for.”

Gannon’s record, which is seven games above .500 this late in the season for the first time program history, wasn’t aided by any recent endeavors. The Knights have lost seven of their last 11, including three straight to No.17 Seton Hill University.

Although the games against Seton Hill haven’t resulted in wins, they have ended with excitement. The Griffons won two of three in their final at bat in extra innings and narrowly edged out the Knights out 8-6 at Gannon University Field.

“We gave them everything they could handle,” Cocolin said. “It was a statement of where we are. We’re playing well, pitching well and playing good defense.”

Although the bats have lagged at times in the Gannon lineup, they’ve been able to stay afloat because of their work on the mound. The Knights, one of the best pitching teams in the conference, posted the fourth best ERA in the PSAC.

The workhorse of Gannon’s staff, Paul McKenna, has gone 6-3 in nine appearances with a 3.54 ERA and six complete games. The team’s closer, Landon Wahl, has kept leads safe when asked. The senior has a appeared in a staff-high 15 games while earning a 5-4 record with five saves.

No matter how McKenna and Wahl pitch, or how many moonshots come from the barrel of Tomko’s bat, one thing is for certain – it’s going to take a team effort the Knights to come out of the upcoming weekends with a .500 record, let alone with a playoff spot.

“We need to take it slow, take it game by game,” Tomko said. “Anything less than the playoffs is a disappointment.”



[email protected]