It often has taken a while for the Knights to get cranked up this season, but when their engines are at full go few teams have offered much resistance.

For a while, it seemed the only thing Tyler McPeak could hold on to was pain and heartache.

On a pair of occasions in the second inning, the North Lincoln catcher needed assistance from trainers after being shaken up on a previous play. That’s not to mention his team dug itself a 5-0 deficit against a potent Mount Pleasant baseball team.

But as has become commonplace for the Knights this season, McPeak dusted himself off and got back to work.

His solo blast was the first of nine unanswered runs for North Lincoln, keying it to a 9-5 victory and a date in the West 2A regional semifinals on Friday against Smoky Mountain.

“Our shortstop had a beautiful hit in the first inning, but (until my home run) we hadn’t really made solid contact off of their pitcher,” the North Lincoln senior said. “It got everything started and made everyone believe that we could get some hits on this guy.

“It’s a little nerve-racking. Though we always felt we’d dig out of the hole, this time of year it is win or go home. And we weren’t ready (to go home) just yet.”

McPeak is one of many heroes this season for the Knights, which head into Friday’s contest with a 24-2 mark and riding a 17-game winning streak.

Collectively, the team is batting better than. 300 for the season, while six players with a minimum of 80 plate appearances are hitting above that mark.

McPeak’s average of .393, in addition to his six home runs and 35 RBIs are a team high. He is joined in the “.300 Club” by Nick Solomita (.365, 12 doubles), Tyler Lilly (.360, 28 RBIs), Jake Soorus (.347, nine extra base hits), Matty Jorgensen (.343, 17 RBIs and five doubles) and David Borges (.340).

What potentially makes their average more impressive is the Knights’ habit of starting games slow. North Lincoln has trailed in each of its three playoff games before coming back to earn wins.

The last two illustrate this best, though. A 14-run fourth inning turned a close game with Foard into a romp, while it methodically hacked at Mount Pleasant before scoring six in the fifth to pull away.

“We’ve had a lot of games this season where we’ve struggled the first time through,” said North Lincoln baseball coach Jon Carpenter. “And I tell them to just be patient, keep your heads up and it’ll eventually come.”

While it’s taken a while for the Knights’ bats to come around, their pitching staff has proven dominant throughout.. This season, it has combined for a 1.47 ERA.

Lilly has been the staff’s ace, going 10-1 this season with an ERA of 0.88. He has struck out 77 opposing batters, while walking 31.

Carpenter was particularly happy about his most recent performance, one in which the senior pitcher struggled at times but rebounded to pick up the win.

“He’s our go-to guy,” Carpenter said. “The further you go, the better umpires you are going to see and they are going to have a tighter zone. We adjusted to that, kept the ball low and got ground balls.”

Fellow upperclassman Will Thornhill has also been solid for the Knights, posting a 1.58 ERA en route to five wins. Junior Joey Cobb has also proven reliable, winning five games while earning a 2.12 ERA.

Before this season, North Lincoln did not have a playoff win to its name. Knowing such success isn’t promised one year to the next, players and coaches are savoring each moment and not taking it for granted.

“Our kids are enjoying the season,” Carpenter said. “Honestly, it is one I’m hoping they are learning to cherish … it is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that most kids don’t get.

“Coaches get this chance every year, but players only get two to three opportunities tops. We emphasize taking it game by game, and that’s what we’re hoping this group continues to do.”