Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

 

The Golden rams settled for a split in their Sunday doubleheader against University of the Sciences, taking the first game 2-0 before getting shutout themselves 6-0 in the nightcap.

West Chester got a dominant performance from Joe Gunkel in the early game. The 6-foot-6 Gunkel tossed his first shutout of the season, scattering eight singles and striking out nine batters. So far this season, opponents are hitting just .243 off Gunkel and his ERA has dropped to 3.00.

“Gunkel has done a nice job the last couple weekends,” Prachniak said. “He is attacking the strike zone with quality stuff. he consistently competes for us and exemplifies what a No. 1 starter should be.”

West Chester scored both of its runs in the second inning. Tyler Coleman had the Rams third straight single to start the inning, driving in Jordan Wlodarczyk from third and advancing Nick Bonadies to second. Bonadies scored later in the inning on a fielding error from pitcher Kyle O’Brien to make it 2-0.

Wlodarczyk, who was 1-for-3 in the game, has been making things happen offensively so far in the early season, which is something that cannot be said of the rest of the team. He has collected at least one hit in each of the team’s first seven games, and over that stretch has scored five runs, driven in two, homered, and walked three times. His .435 batting average is tops on the team by more than 150 points, with Kyle Frazier’s .278 mark in second.

 Those were the only runs scored in the game. O’Brien ended up going six strong innings for University of the Sciences, allowing the two runs (only one earned) on five hits while striking out a pair. He falls to 0-1 for the season, and Gunkel improves to 2-1.

There was another shutout in the second game, but this time the Rams were on the losing end.

 Pablo Matos and James Ianni combined for the two-hitter, allowing just a double to Bonadies and single to Wlodarczyk.  They only struck out three combined batters, but the duo succeeded by pitching to soft contact and forcing weak fly ball outs for a majority of the game.

 On West Chester’s end, they got three solid innings of two-hit ball from Fred Breidenbach, but he was lifted for a reliever, and that’s when things imploded. Matt McCallister, who danced around trouble in his previous outing against Philadelphia University, could not escape unscathed this time. He was touched up for five earned runs in his inning and a third of work. Kyle Weary worked the rest of the game, allowing one more run to cross the plate.

Although the pitching has not been quite where West Chester wants it, it is the other facets of their game that have been troubling early on.

The Rams, who are generally known as a highly offensive team, have struggled to get runs on the board through their first seven games. They did have a breakout doubleheader last week in which they scored 14 and eight runs, respectively, but in their other five games they have scored four or fewer runs. In three of those low-scoring games, they hit under .220 as a team, including a .082 clip during Sunday’s night game.

Another contributor to the Rams 2-4-1 record is the unusually high number of errors in the field. West Chester has had at least one error in each game this season, and three times have had three errors in a game. They now have an astounding 14 errors in the first seven games. Prachniak is worried about the errors, but thinks it will not be a long-term problem.

“We are capable of being more consistent from a defensive standpoint,” Prachniak said. “[But] I trust in the ability of our guys and that we will progress collectively as a defense.”

West Chester will be in action again on Tuesday, as they play the College of Saint Rose for their third straight doubleheader at home. First pitches are scheduled for noon and 3 p.m. This will be West Chester’s finally series before they travel to Florida over spring break for the RussMatt Invitational, where they will play seven games in six days.

Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.

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