Danville baseball squad counting wins at record clip

May 15—Devin Knorr has been counting to 10 for the majority of his 18 seasons as Danville baseball coach.

It's not an anger management technique. It's not how he double-checks his lineup card.

No, rather Knorr has deliberately counted the Ironmen's wins each year with the goal of reaching 10 to qualify for the district playoffs.

District 4 requires its teams to win at least half of their games to play in the postseason. So 10 wins on the 20-game baseball slate punches a ticket.

The .500 qualifying standard has been in place for the length of Knorr's Danville tenure.

However, in a significant break from the norm, Knorr stopped counting three weeks ago. The Ironmen posted their 10th win on April 26, long before any of his previous teams.

The meaningful win was at the beginning of a 9-1 stretch that carried Danville to the No. 1 seed in the upcoming District 4 Class 4A tournament.

If the Ironmen beat Shikellamy today, they'll finish the regular season at 16-4 — the program's most wins under Knorr and the most in a regular season since the 2003 team went 18-2.

"At this point in time in the year, we're trying to get around to playing our best baseball going into the playoffs," Knorr said after beating his alma mater Monday. "We'll see. (The District 4 Class 4A tournament) is going to be tough."

This is Danville's third consecutive district playoff berth after winning 11 games last year and 10 in 2022.

The Ironmen were 8-6 in 2021 when a four-game slide pushed them to the brink of elimination. They wound up missing districts by one win at 9-11. That was the only time in the last seven seasons that Danville failed to qualify (the 2000 season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic), and they won either 10 or 11 regular-season games in every one until this year.

"We came into the year knowing we were going to be pretty decent," said junior Cole Duffy, "and I think this kind of took off on us, and we're like, 'We can actually be something this year.'

"We know it, and we're chasing it."

The Ironmen have been a strong-hitting team despite the loss of Mason Raup, the 2023 Daily Item Player of the Year, to Slippery Rock.

Senior shortstop Reece McCarthy, a UMass commit, leads the team with a .500 average (29-for-58), 10 doubles, three triples and two homers. His 29 RBIs are second on the team to junior Wyatt Shultz's 31, and McCarthy ranks third with 22 runs scored.

Matt Acor, a junior third baseman, has been on a tear since settling into the two-hole in Danville's batting order, right in front of McCarthy. Acor has hits in all but two of his last 11 games, with multiple hits in six of them, for a .390 average. He's knocked in 19 runs to rank third.

Duffy and Shultz rank third and fourth in batting at .377 and .353, respectively. Duffy has scored a team-high 26 runs out of the leadoff spot, two ahead of sophomore Carter Raup, who is hitting .352 in the nine hole.

The other veteran players in the starting lineup — Garrett Hoffman (.342), Jack Gibson (.292), Lincoln Diehl (.288), Daniel Walker (.269) and Eli Welliver (.250) — have contributed to the .333 team clip and a per-game average of 8.3 runs per game.

"We trust all of our guys, one to nine, to come up in a spot and have base hits," Knorr said. "It's always nice when the guys are fighting through at-bats, seeing pitches, and working hard to get themselves on base in any way possible. When we do that, we can score a bunch of runs."

The pitching staff is headed by right-handers Shultz (5-1, 1.43 ERA), Hoffman (4-0, 2.97) and Duffy (2-2, 4.61). Shultz and Duffy both average better than a strikeout per inning while allowing fewer hits than innings pitched. The team ERA is 3.66 over 130 innings with 129 strikeouts and 127 hits allowed.

The Ironmen have allowed more than four earned runs only twice during their 9-1 run.

"I feel great about the way we've been playing," said Duffy. "We have, through the year, really come together as a family. I think at the beginning we were kind of all over the place, but now we've come together and see how good we are and see the potential.

"I think this team can go really far if we just keep playing team baseball."

Danville won its last district title in 2011, sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 12 seed at 9-7 and surging all the way to the Class 2A state semifinals. A 3-1 loss to Salisbury left the Ironmen at 15-8, their most wins in a season until this year.

Knorr could almost certainly add a little breathing room to Danville's schedule, picking up a sure win or two, but he's never been one to pursue gaudy win totals. He has long understood the Valley's baseball landscape, from back when he was the catcher on Southern Columbia's 1994 Class 2A semifinal squad and an assistant coach on the Tigers' 2000 Class A state championship team.

The current Heartland Athletic Conference — like the Susquehanna Valley League and Mid-Penn Conference before it — provides strong competition, enough to keep a team out of the postseason. And Knorr prefers to challenge the Ironmen in nonleague play with Athens, North Schuylkill and South Williamsport on this year's slate.

"If you want to be a team that's going to contend for a league and district championship," he said, "you've got to beat the big boys on the block."

So Knorr will continue to count ... and he may not finish earlier than he did this season.