Team continues historic season

Usually at this time of the year the players on the Gannon University baseball team are looking ahead to their finals.

Up until now though, it’s never been the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference finals.

With four games left in their season, the Knights have already clinched their first ever postseason appearance and look to capture the No. 1 seed in the PSAC tournament heading into their season-ending series against crosstown rival Mercyhurst University.

And according to junior slugger Michael Tomko, they wouldn’t have the schedule work out any other way.

“It’s a big intercity rivalry,” said Tomko, who leads Gannon in home runs and RBIs. “We don’t want to play anyone else when it comes to a game of this magnitude.”

Gannon (13-7 PSAC) is in a first-place tie with the Lakers for the top spot in the PSAC West. Both teams are two games ahead of California (Pa) University and three games ahead of Slippery Rock University.

With four games left and a 24-18 overall record the Knights clinched their first .500 season for the first time since 1985. Their 24 victories also beat that same 1985 team’s total of 23 for most in program history.

“It’s special. This is something we’ve been talking about since we got here,” said coach Nate Cocolin, who took over in 2007. “It’s a chance for this class to put a stamp on themselves.”

While the .500 season is an accomplishment to Cocolin, whose team went 8-36 in his first year, it serves little more than a consolation prize for those taking the field.

“A .500 season is nice,” Tomko said. “But a PSAC Championship is what we want.”

However, if, like Cocolin says, playoff success means sealing a stamp on their class, then these Knights just spent 44 cents in California (Pa.) over the weekend. Gannon, which had a 1-11 all-time record against the Vulcans since entering the PSAC in 2009, took three of four games from Cal and knocked them out of first place in the PSAC West. After sweeping the home series by a combined total of two runs, The Knights traveled south where it rebounded to win the night cap 7-4 after getting shutout 4-0 in game one.

“We’re just going into every game with the same mentality,” Tomko said. “We think we’re going to win.”

The 6-foot-4, 205 pound senior went 4-11 against the Vulcans and knocked in three RBIs while senior Evan Baglieri, who has batted behind Tomko for the majority of the year, proved to be the catalyst that the Knights needed, going 6-13 from the plate while driving in five RBIs.

While Gannon relied on quality, not quantity with its hits, its pitching staff made sure that game was in reach more often than not. Seniors Landon Wahl, who earned two victories during the series, and Paul McKenna, who picked up the other win, limited one of the PSAC’s better hitting team to under its average of five runs per game in each game.

“We pitched it real well and we competed at the plate. Our pitchers held them down and made it tough for them to score.”

While the Knights were happy with to come away with the wins, the historic aspect of the trip wasn’t lost on Cocolin either. It not only started to reverse a terrible all-time record against Cal but also put Gannon in a position to make a deep late season run.

“It was huge. It set us up to reach all of our goals. We clinched a .500 season, a playoff berth and a chance for a No. 1 seed.”

ZACK McDERMOTT

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