The York College coaches began discussing their pitching rotation Tuesday on the bus ride to Illinois for the opening round of the NAIA baseball tournament.
The Panthers, winners of the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, earned the No. 1 seed for the Joliet Regional and the all-important bye in the first round.
“It’s huge,” coach Nick Harlan said. “It sets you up to have your pitching in place.”
Ninth-ranked York (41-10) will play the winner of Mayville State (N.D.)-Trinity Christian (Ill.) at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The coaches finally decided Wednesday afternoon to go with 6-foot-5 senior Tom Korn in the opener, which allows them to use No. 1 starter Aaron Conyers later in the tournament. Junior Tyler Molder would be next up.
“Tom really hasn’t pitched a bad game all year,” Harlan said. “He’s been our most consistent pitcher.”
Pitching has been the Panthers’ strength. The staff has an ERA of 2.60, fourth in the NAIA.
Conyers (8-2, 2.40 ERA) has given up four hits in his past four outings, including a no-hitter.
“Right now, Conyers is pitching the best,” Harlan said. “His preparation is outstanding. He’s more and more comfortable with his pitches.”
Korn is 8-2 with a 2.41 ERA, Molder is 7-2 with a 2.42 ERA and Josh Knoll is 6-3 with a 3.23 ERA.
York also has had clutch hitting. When the Panthers have runners in scoring position, they’ve done a good job of getting them home, especially with doubles. York has hit 111, including 19 by Trevor Ramos, who has 52 RBIs.
Don’t ask anyone their batting average, though.
“The biggest thing for us is our guys have not been concerned with individual statistics,” Harlan said. “Guys don’t even know what they are hitting.
“They are willing to do the small things. They are willing to sacrifice. When you are more focused on team success, it keeps you more focused on small things throughout the game. That’s been big for us.”
The Panthers have never made it to the World Series. But Harlan said that at the halfway point of the season, he could see his team displaying the leadership and discipline needed to make it to Lewiston, Idaho, from May 24 to 31.
“If we continue to do that, we’ll be in position to accomplish our goal,” Harlan said.
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