By Jack Creegan and Andrew Feminella
Baltimore County, MD -- CCBC Essex Knights baseball is getting hot at the right time during a season that has been defined by streaks.
The Knights have won four of their last six games and are 5-3 in NJCAA Regions XX Division II games. Over these last six games they've outscored opponents by 45-27.
Nine of the Knights' last seventeen games are within the division and with the good form they have been showing over the past couple of weeks, they could be positioned well for the regional tournament.
The Knights got off to a cold start this season, losing eight games in a row after starting 3-0.
They then went on to win four in a row, before dropping five of their next seven.
Since then, the Knights have won eight of their last 13.
Consistency has been a challenge for the Knights so far this year, but they seemed to have figured themselves out heading into the most important part of their schedule.
As a team, the Knights are batting .264 with an on base percentage of .364.
Nelson Laviosa has been the leader at the plate. The freshman right fielder out of Miami, Florida is hitting .402 with an on-base percentage of .433. He also leads to team with 36 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with three home runs.
Freshman middle infielder Julio Creazzola, who was a high school teammate of Laviosa, has stolen 21 bases, which leads the team.
On the mound, sophomore Caleb Smith has been the standout performer so far on the season. He ranks third on the team in innings pitched with 32.1 and has an earned run average of just 1.95, good for second on the team.
He also has the most wins on the team with a record of 4-1 and the most saves with two.
Four pitchers, Adam Biss, Jancarlo Llaser, Emilio Valdes, and Andrew Fraley are averaging more than ten strikeouts per nine innings. Valdes currently leads the pack with an average rate 13.31 per nine innings.
The tail end of the season is going to be packed full of games after a number of cancellations due to weather.
If the Knights keep playing the way they have over their last six games, they are destined to make some noise heading into the post season.
The recent stretch of success for the Knights, has been supported by production from the top half of the order and a few dominating pitchers.
Three straight victories came against Paul D. Camp Community College that included a ninth inning go ahead RBI and then two consecutive blowouts where the Knights won by double digits.
After a balanced effort against sibling campus CCBC Dundalk gave the team their fourth straight win, the team dropped three one-run games, two that were blown late by the bullpen.
Despite the skid, the Knights bounced back winning 4 of 5 in a dominating fashion.
Creazzola has jump started the top of the Knights' order batting leadoff, hitting .353 with 12 runs and eight stolen bases over the past twelve games.
Behind him, the heart of the order has done their job driving in those runs.
Laviosa has continued his hot start by batting .386 and knocking in 15 RBIs. In addition to his accomplishments at the plate, the freshman has excelled on the base paths, scoring 11 runs and stealing six bases.
Sophomore transfer Luke Schaffer has continued the trend of success at the plate and on the bases, scoring eight runs and boasting seven RBIs over the previous twelve games. He has also showed plate discipline, walking seven times to support a .386 on-base percentage.
Mitch Fyffe, the Knights most productive hitter last season, has continued to find ways to produce runs for his team, despite not being on fire at the dish. He has eight runs scored and nine hits, including a moonshot home run, and driven in four runs during this 8-4 stretch.
Off the bench, catcher and corner infielder James Husar has been able to provide a much needed spark for the bottom of the order. In limited action he is 5-for-13 with five runs scored, five RBIs and three walks for an OBP of .500.
Perhaps more impressive has been the pitching staff, who have kept the Knights in many close games and provided the team some extra confidence.
In his last three starts, Biss has gone 19 innings, striking out 24, while posting a 0.95 ERA.
Chirs Otero has also given the Knights a few notable starts, pitching 15.2 innings, striking out 17 and only allowing three earned runs.
Jancarlo Llaser has started two games, both resulting in Knights victories where he holds a 2.57 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through 14 innings.
Finally, arguably the most extraordinary pitcher through this recent run has been Smith. He has 21 strikeouts and 1.00 ERA, with an astounding 0.61 WHIP stemming from his ability to limit opponents to just three walks.