The West Chester baseball team got off to a strong start last week with a doubleheader sweep of West Virginia State.
The Rams outscored West Virginia 20-7 on the day, taking the first game 14-5 and the nightcap 6-2.
Joe Wendle led the way for West Chester in both games, going 4-9 on the day with three homeruns, eight RBI and an incredible 1.888 OPS. His outstanding performance at the dish earned him PSAC East Athlete of the week honors.
West Chester wasted no time getting started in game 1. Mike Raimo and Jack Provine reached base to start the game, and Wendle followed with his first home run of the year giving West Chester a 3-0 lead. They added another run later in the inning when Chris Pula scored on a Justin Lamborn two-bagger.
The Rams then went on to score in every inning except the third, rapping out 12 hits en route to an easy victory.
“Everyone had solid focus and a good mindset when approaching the plate,” Pula said. “I feel the biggest thing was just capitalizing when we had runners in scoring position.”
In addition to Wendle’s two blasts, Reid Pulford hit a three run homer and Matt Baer connected with a solo shot, giving West Chester four homeruns in the game.
Lamborn finished the game 3-4 with two runs scored and a RBI, and Provine went 2-3 with a walk, RBI, and three runs scored. Provine and Raimo reached base a total of five times in the game out of the one and two spots, providing Wendle with the opportunity to drive them in.
In addition to the offensive display, West Chester got an incredible effort on the mound from Joe Gunkel. Gunkel faced the minimum through the first four innings, allowing one hit that was erased on a 5-4-3 double play one batter later.
Gunkel ran into some trouble in the fifth, surrendering three runs on four hits, but worked his way out of the jam to strand two West Virginia runners on base.
He exited the game after the fifth, giving up a total of three earned runs on five hits while striking out five in his first win of the season.
“Joe pitched a great game. He gave it his best and we were able to support him,” Pula said.
Dave Stieg finished out the game, allowing two runs on one hit in his two innings of relief.
West Chester’s defense backed Gunkel and Stieg nicely, committing just one small throwing error in the seventh.
The 14-5 win in game 1 gave the Rams quite a bit of momentum in the second game.
West Chester struck again in the first inning, in a strikingly similar fashion to the way they did in the first game.
With one out in the first, Provine laced a double, putting a man in scoring position for Wendle with one out. Wendle, for the third time in six at bats, took the West Virginia pitcher over the fence for a home run, again giving the Rams the first inning lead.
A lot of credit should be given to Wendle for his production, Provine should not go unnoticed, as he reached base in front of Wendle five times in the two games. The player that drives the runs in is important, but just as important is the player who gets in position to score those runs.
“Joe is definitely a run- producer and when everyone plays together and does their jobs [at the top of the order], we provide him with that possibility [to drive in runs],” Pula said.
West Virginia came as close as they would come in the bottom of the second, when a hit and an error by Wendle allowed a run to cross the plate.
The score stayed 2-1 until the top of the seventh, when West Chester exploded for four runs, lengthening their lead to 6-2.
After Raimo and Provine got on base again to start the inning, Pula, the sophomore power hitter, crushed a triple into the gap that scored both runners. The West Virginia shortstop made a throwing error, allowing Pula to score the third run of the inning.
Lamborn added the fourth and final run in the inning with a long home run, his fourth hit and second RBI on the day.
Once again, the Golden Rams pitching was just as good as the offense. Fred Breidenbach tossed five strong innings, allowing just one run on two hits, walking none and striking out two. In the two games, The Rams starting pitching threw 10 innings, gave up only four runs, and struck out seven.
Conor Kerins struggled a bit after Bredinbach left the game, allowing two hits and a walk in one-third of an inning, but Jordan Lehman came in and closed the door. Lehman pitched the final 1.2 innings and surrendered just a run on three hits.
West Chester’s defeat of West Virginia State in both games was definitely the way they wanted to begin the season. The offense performance and starting pitching are certainly what every coach wants to see early on in the season.
The Rams will have to stay fresh, however. Since their game at Chestnut Hill college was cancelled on Friday, they will not play again until March 9 in Florida as a kickoff to their spring trip.
The game on March 9 will be against Rollins at noon, and they will play one game each day until March 14, when they return to West Chester to begin their PSAC schedule.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.