Pitching prize Blake McKnight caps record-setting career
March 13, 2013 | Bryce Wilks
Tied for the all-time Evangel University wins lead, Blake McKnight took the mound March 3 against Madonna University and threw a one-hit gem to cement himself atop the career list.
It was an unlikely scenario for the O’Fallon, Missouri product, who played for a home school coalition team during high school and fell outside the recruiting area where coaches typically concentrate their time and resources.
Already interested in Evangel after a campus visit, McKnight wanted to play baseball as well, but had no relationship with the coaching staff until contacting them during his senior year and requesting a tryout.
Head Coach Lance Quessenberry obliged, and McKnight was throwing a bullpen session and hitting at Crusader Field a few days later. Evangel’s initial offer to join the junior varsity squad blossomed into McKnight amassing 24 career pitching wins, with still more than half a season for the senior hurler to establish a new benchmark.
“We could tell immediately that Blake knew what he was doing on the mound and had raw talent, but didn’t necessarily know he would have the kind of career he’s had” Quessenberry says. “It’s a testament to his work ethic because he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve had in 17 years as a coach.”
McKnight entered Evangel with an 80-82 mile per hour fastball that, according to Quessenberry, now reaches 87-93. Like his abilities on the diamond, McKnight’s leadership role in the program has grown year by year.
From posting a team-leading earned run average as a freshman, to a second team all-conference selection as a sophomore, to first team all-conference as a junior, to this season’s ace of the pitching staff, McKnight now has hope for pursuing a professional career.
“The best pitchers in our conference typically get looked at by pro teams, and Blake certainly has that chance based on his level of performance,” Quessenberry says.
McKnight has harnessed growth off the field as well by embracing Evangel’s opportunities for academic and spiritual growth.
The Exercise Science major interned with Excel Sports in 2011, and credits faculty members like Dr. Keith Hardy for preparing him to enroll in graduate school at Southwest Baptist University this fall.
“The Kinesiology Department has equipped me with a great base knowledge and has given me confidence to start the next chapter of my life,” McKnight says.
Evangel’s distinct Christian atmosphere drew McKnight to campus initially, and he has enjoyed chances to fellowship with coaches and teammates on a regular basis.
“The coaches always offer devotionals that encourage us and build maturity among our team,” McKnight says. “They are truly top-notch coaches and men of God.”
McKnight used baseball as a ministry platform in 2012 after being selected to play summer baseball with Athletes in Action, a Christian organization that fields teams in three collegiate prospect leagues across the United States.
As a member of the Xenia Scouts, McKnight tied for the team lead in wins, and shared his faith in the community and with players from opposing teams.
There are a few goals that McKnight still holds for his Evangel career, most notably winning the Heart of America Conference, leading the team to Regionals and setting a new record for wins as a team (30).
“For every game that I have won, a defense played behind me and an offense scored runs to make my achievements possible,” McKnight says. “I have been extremely blessed at Evangel, and look forward to what God has in store for the rest of my time here.”