The Golden Rams diamondmen enter their 2011 season ranked second in the Atlantic Region by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in its annual preseason poll.

In the 2010 campaign West Chester was 39-14 in which they won the PSAC Eastern Division regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship game against rival Kutztown. Kutztown’s squad was selected first with 86 points and six first place votes, while WCU received 83 points and garnered just two first-place votes.

“We are not concerned where we were picked to finish in the PSAC or where we are ranked nationally. Our attention is working hard pitch by pitch each and every day at practice and in games. We have a talented team and as long as follow this approach of an all-out effort we will do very well this year” head coach Mark Jackson said.

Junior second basemen Joe Wendle and starting pitcher Fred Breidenbach were each named to the NCBWA preseason first team All-Atlantic Region squad. Wendle was a national semifinalist for the Tino Martinez award, handed out to the Division II player of the year last season.

“Joe is a five tool player that combines talent with outstanding work ethic and a relentless desire to excel,” Jackson said. “All of these qualities make him one of the top players in the PSAC and among the best nationally”.

He was also named to the Division II preseason All-America squad in the college preview issue of Baseball America, which hit the newsstands last week. Breidenbach was named the pitcher of the year in the PSAC Eastern Division after setting a school record with 11 wins in his first season.

Starting pitcher Jordan Lehman was an honorable mention selection, along with outfielder Matt Baer. Lehman led the Rams’ staff with a 3.49 earned-run average while authoring a 7-2 record in 13 starts. Baer hit .335 with a team-high 13 home runs.

WCU was also picked to finish second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division.

Once again the Golden Rams find themselves behind the Golden Bears of Kutztown, who received five-first place votes and are the preseason favorite to win the PSAC East.

Defending PSAC Champion California (Pa.) was picked to finish first in the Western Division with five first-place votes of its own. Slippery Rock was picked second with a single first-place vote.

Last season the Golden Rams authored a 17-7 league mark. Optimism is still very high for this club as they will return a strong pitching nucleus and some key bats in the order. They will have to fill a huge void left by three year starting shortstop Nick Spisak who graduated last May.

As the captain of the infield, Spisak was one of the best shortstops in PSAC history. He currently sits in the top 10 in seven different categories in the WCU baseball record book.

His career .359 batting average ranks him ninth all-time in WCU history. Over his four-year career Spisak played in 169 games, accumulating 643 at-bats and is third in most runs scored with 166. He tallied 231 hits, 51 doubles and finished with 330 total bases. In addition to his play on the field, Spisak was also known for his leadership qualities.

Another player that will surely be missed is catcher Bob Stumpo. He finished his senior season with a .305 batting average that included 11 doubles, 8 home runs and 52 RBI. Over his four-year career he hit .317 with 45 doubles, 16 home runs and 142 RBI.

He is tied for seventh all-time at WCU in career at bats (178) while sitting seventh in doubles (45) and sixth in RBI (142). He set the school’s all-time record by throwing out 46 would-be base stealers during his career at WCU.

Stumpo was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies last summer. He became the 26th West Chester University baseball player drafted by a major league baseball club.

“The seniors from last year made a lasting contribution to WCU baseball and have left their impressive legacy. Everyone is proud of all that this group accomplished. We are also extremely excited about the legacy that the current team is building and are very confident that they will also accomplish a great deal”, Jackson said.

“We have some excellent returning players, talented transfers and a number of freshmen that can make an immediate impact and can all lead in different ways. The players and coaching staff have together worked exceptionally hard are looking forward to the season.”

Jackson will look to guys like Wendle, Baer, Josh Heyne, and Brandon Wolfe to be consistent up and down the lineup, game in and game out. The Golden Rams will travel down to Orlando, Florida on March 5 where they will play 13 games in nine days.

Steven Fisher is a fourth-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at sf674180@wcupa.edu.

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