The West Chester Golden Rams early season hopes to dethrone Kutztown and finish as the PSAC East No. 1 seed have been shattered by a 1-3 series vs. Kutztown on Friday and Saturday. “I think everyone had this date circled on the calendar from the beginning of the year,” first baseman Mark Gilliford said before the game. “Both teams are loaded with talent which makes for some hard fought and well played games every year.”
Coming into the series, West Chester(19-10, 6-6), ranked 26th in the nation by Collegiate Baseball, locked horns with the No. 3 ranked Golden Bears of Kutztown (30-3, 11-1) in a pair of two game series’ at Kutztown on Friday and West Chester on Saturday.
In Friday’s doubleheader Game one was showcased by Kutztown’s explosive offensive attack. After West Chester took a 3-1 lead early, Kutztown erupted for a four-run third inning highlighted by three home runs.
Kevin McGrath closed the gap to 5-4 with an RBI single in the fifth, but the Bears’ Ryan Loper hit a three-run home run, his second of the contest. Kutztown never looked back and ultimately won 8-4.
In game two, Kutztown struck for two runs in the first and kept WCU bats hitless for 4.1 innings until Drew Pare walked and McGrath singled and advanced Pare to third. Pare eventually scored on a balk by pitcher Derek Reis.
West Chester would tie the game at 2 in the sixth with a single from Matt Cotellese but was deprived of a larger inning with a strike out, throw out double play.
With the game tied at two, Kutztown answered in their seventh inning after a detrimental West Chester error moved Mike Kacelowicz to third with no outs. After a walk to Sean Bond, Nate Kratz laced a walk-off single for a sweep of the home series.
On Saturday, the Rams took the field at Serpico Stadium needing a win to stay within the mix for second place in the PSAC East.
In game one, West Chester took a 2-0 lead early but relinquished the advantage after Mike McCardell’s first Grand Slam of the afternoon. West Chester would cut the Kutztown lead to 4-3 heading into the seventh.
With one out, Nick Spisak reached on the third baseman’s error. Kyle Bechter walked, Cotellese struck out and Mark Gilliford walked loading the bases.
With no bases open and a 2-2 count, Charlie Kelly came in as a defense replacement, tracked the ball down but failed to come up with the out as it hit the heel of his glove and fell to the outfield grass.
Spisak and Bechter raced home for the win as the Golden Bears looked on in disbelief of their first loss in league play.
In game two, Kutztown pounced on West Chester early. After an error at third base, Kutztown compiled three straight hits to take a 2-0 lead early.
Bob Stumpo cut the lead in half in the second inning with an RBI double plating Pare.
In their next frame, Kutztown’s batters loaded the bases with two singles and a walk which set up another McCardell grand slam, his second of the afternoon.
The 6-1 lead would be padded further as Kutztown’s pitching held the Golden Ram batters in check for the duration winning the second half of the doubleheader 9-3.
“[Kutztown] played four great games against us this weekend,” said Head Coach Greg Mamula after the game. “While we are not happy with our 6-6 conference record, we are fortunate that we control our own destiny in terms of reaching the PSAC tournament.”
West Chester has eight more conference games scheduled and currently holds a tiebreaker over Bloomsburg for the second seed.
“If we play well in our final eight PSAC games, we will finish as the second place team in the PSAC-East,” Mamula said.
West Chester will close their conference schedule with a four game series against Millersville and East Stroudsburg over the next two weekends.
On April 20, West Chester will visit Millersville for a two-game set followed by another double dip on
The following weekend West Chester plays a pair of two sets in West Chester and East Stroudsburg on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
After that, West Chester will try to repeat last year’s magic when they beat Kutztown in the playoffs to reach the College World Series.
“It gives the rivalry a little extra something this year,” said Gilliford.