Wins and record-setting performances went hand in hand this summer as the Corvallis Knights dominated the West Coast League regular season.
The next challenge is to match that effort and finish out the collegiate wood bat season on top.
The three-time defending league champion Knights are 50-12 overall after winning their final seven games to finish the regular season at 42-12 in league play. In doing so they set a new WCL wins record while going 21-6 in both halves of the league’s regular-season schedule.
They head to Walla Walla, Washington, to open the best-of-three South divisional series with the Sweets (30-23 WCL) at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. Game 2 will be Wednesday and Game 3 Thursday, if necessary, both at 6:30 p.m. at Goss Stadium.
With the 12-team league’s best record, the Knights will have home-field advantage in the best-of-three championship series as well, should they get past Walla Walla. That series begins Saturday.
Winning the South’s first half qualified the Knights for the playoffs for the 13th straight season, matching their time in Corvallis and the start of the current divisional playoff format.
Corvallis and Walla Walla split the regular-season series, with each winning three homes games. The teams opened the league schedule in early June in Walla Walla, with the Sweets winning by a combined 19-8. They met again in mid-July at Goss, with the Knights taking all three by a combined 22-7.
The Sweets went 18-9 in the first half but just 12-14 in the second.
Victoria and Wenatchee meet in the WCL North divisional series.
Corvallis, which won 50 games for the second time (the 2001 team went 54-14), has won six league titles overall, all in the last 11 years.
The Knights used one of the league’s top offenses to finish the regular season first in doubles (110) and triples (18). The pitching staff had a league-best 2.93 earned-run average with a WCL-leading opponent batting average of .223. The defense was third in fielding percentage at .972.
University of Portland outfielder Jake Holcroft and Utah utility player Briley Knight have led the offense.
Holcroft won the league batting title at .368 – the Knights’ first batting champ since Taylor Ard in 2009 -- while setting WCL records for hits (82) and at-bats (223).
Knight, a Crescent Valley High School alum, has put in a strong bid to be the league’s most valuable player.
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He was first in the WCL regular season in on-base percentage (.460), slugging (.621), total bases (113) and extra-base hits (29) and tied for first in sacrifice flies (5) with teammate Nick Yovetich.
Knight was also second in batting (.357), doubles (18) and RBIs (42), third in runs scored (48), tied for third in home runs (8) and fourth in hits (65).
Andy Atwood was first in triples (7), tied for first in sacrifice hits (6) and second in at-bats (217) and hits (68), Atwood and Holcroft tied for first in runs (51). Brooks Lee gave Corvallis a clean sweep of the top three spots in batting, finishing third (.342).
Dixie State left-hander Tevita Gerber, the Knights’ projected starter Tuesday, had a strong summer on the mound.
Gerber (7-1, 2.20 earned run average) was first in the league in wins, second in ERA, fifth in innings pitched (49) and seventh in strikeouts (50) while making nine starts in 10 total appearances.
He had some help. David Watson (5-1, 4.02) and Jackson Arnsdorf (5-1, 1.70) tied for second in wins. Brodie Cooper-Vassalakis (4-0, 4.76) was fourth in innings pitched on the team behind those mentioned above.
Connor Knutson (1-0, 2.19 ERA) and Marques Johnson, (0-0, 1.93 ERA) have served as the team’s primary closers, with five and three saves, respectively.
Richie Jimenez was Corvallis’ last player of the year in 2009. Knights alum Landon Bourassa was the WCL pitcher of the year last summer.
In the dugout, the Knights have the two most decorated coaches in the league's 15-year history.
Head coach Brooke Knight, in his 12th season in that position, is a four-time WCL coach of the year and has won six titles as coach. He played for the team for three summers as a collegian.
Associate head coach Ed Knaggs has also been named coach of the year four times and won five league titles with Wenatchee. His teams also had two runner-up finishes.
Pitching coach Kellen Camus and fellow asisstant Youngjin Yoon, whose training philosophy focuses on areas such as strength and conditioning and mental awareness, round out an accomplished staff.
Corvallis was also successful at the gates, as fans showed up in bunches at Goss. The Knights set a club record for regular-season attendance at 55,072 while averaging 1,731 over 32 games.