The weather may still be cold outside, but that hasn’t stopped West Chester’s baseball team from heating up and winning nine of its last 10 games, including eight in a row at one point.
Remember that 0-3 start when it seemed like they couldn’t hit, field, or pitch? Not anymore.
West Chester has been getting contributions from across the board over the last several weeks, and it really has showed.
Quite possibly hardest to overlook is the superb pitching performances during their recent hot streak. In the last 10 games, West Chester has recorded four shutouts. In their first 17 games, they had only one.
Ace righthander Joe Gunkel has certainly been leading the way. During the Rams eight game win streak he had two shutouts, bringing his season total to three. This year he has pitched to the tune of a 1.98 ERA, 36 strikeouts in 41 innings and a .216 opponents batting average.
Gunkel, who is now fourth in school history with 16 career complete games and six shutouts, earned PSAC East Pitcher of the Week honors for his efforts on the hill.
The rest of the staff has followed his lead. West Chester has given up just 30 runs in the past 10 games, an average of only three per game. Fred Breidenbach, who struggled a bit earlier in the season, picked up a shutout against Bloomsburg in the second game of a doubleheader, right after Gunkel shut them out in the first game. Two games later, Conor Kerins and Kyle Weary combined for another shutout against the Huskies, making it three in four games.
The dominant efforts against PSAC East teams have earned them a 7-1 conference record.
It hasn’t just been the starting pitching either. Weary has anchored an incredibly sound bullpen, posting a 2-0 record with two saves and an almost unheard of 0.46 ERA in 10 appearances. He was recently awarded ECAC East Pitcher of the Week honors for his performances.
Along with Weary, Eric Close and Ron Scull have both also been tremendous in relief, with ERAs of 1.50 and 2.00, respectively.
At the plate, things have been looking up after a slow start. Four of West Chester’s first seven games saw them score two runs or less. Their record in those seven games was 2-4-1. In 19 games since then, they have just five games in which they scored two or under, and over that stretch they are averaging a healthy 4.47 runs per game, and have gone 14-5.
Jack Provine, who took home ECAC Player of the Week honors the same week as Weary was named Pitcher of the Week, has been having a breakout year.
The senior outfielder has batted .344 this season, which is tops on the team by 26 points. He leads the team with 19 runs, 31 hits, two triples, and a .459 on base percentage. He is tied for the team lead with one home run and is one behind Justin Lamborn’s team leading 15 RBIs.
But while he has stood out for his offensive production, he is not alone. West Chester has three players (Provine, Tyler Coleman, and Jordan Wlodarczyk) who are hitting over .300. They also have five players who have driven in at least 11 runs.
Perhaps most impressively, however, is that the Rams have a team on base percentage of .347. Just to put that into some kind of perspective, no team in the MLB had an on base percentage higher than .338 in 2012. The fact that West Chester can get on base so often has drastically improved their production and run output.
Is West Chester the same team it was last year? No, they have gained players and lost players. Are they just as dangerous? Absolutely. The pitching is there. The hitting is there. The fielding is almost there.
If West Chester continues this torrid pace, there is no telling what they can do.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.