When West Chester University’s baseball team traveled to Florida last season for an early-season ballgame against Barry, winter weather kept them from practicing outside of a gym. Barry had already played fifteen games. In what Coach Chris Calciano called the season’s defining moment, the eager Rams spanked Barry 10-2.Eighteen of the next 21 opponents were mowed down in turn, which began a run to the programs first PSAC title. By the end of a record-setting 32-13 season, 10 Rams were selected to the PSAC all-conference team, and four were named to the ECAC Division II all-star team.
All of which is old news to reigning Coach of the Year Chris Calciano. It is well deserved, but completely irrelevant. He is eager to remind all who will listen that, as successful as his program has been, they’ve “done nothing yet.”
This year, Calciano has enough firepower in his arsenal to get beyond “scratching the surface,” and to finally achieve national prominence. It all starts with his pitching staff, anchored by hurler Jeff Brennan. The staff’s workhorse (81 Innings last season) gives the Rams a chance to win every time he takes the mound. Brennan’s 3.11 ERA and six wins lead his coach to call him “our leader on the mound.” The returning staff stands equally tall – the team’s 3.51 ERA ranked them 15th in the country.
Ram fans should witness the final maturation of Calciano’s first recruiting class. All have played in big games, and as they enter their last years, the experienced crop is ready for excellence.
Matt Redcay (.389 Batting aver-age, 16 RBI) and National Defensive Player of the Year Mike LaRosa (.977 Fielding percentage, .445 Slugging percentage) led the nation in double plays.
Then there is Josh Wagner (.345 BA, 32 RBI, 49 Runs scored), a stalwart outfielder that has started 150 straight games since his freshman year. Wagner, who was an all-conference selection last season, has enough eye-popping tools that pro scouts have taken a keen interest.
This alone would be enough to maintain the status quo. But the program has been injected with enough new blood to take it over the top. This season, five Division One transfers will join the party.
Highlighting this group will be Josh Yocum, a career 3.00 hitter from Drexel; Brett Wallace, an athlete with tremendous tools; and Jared Lydon from Rhode Island, whom his new coach expects to “swing the bat really well.”
Then there is the deep and talented freshmen class, highlighted by a duo of young pitchers that Calciano expects to contribute immediately. Frank Gailey from Archbishop Carroll and Ryan Gerber from Reading solidify the pitching staff.
Last season, the Golden Rams set a standard. This season they expect to win championships. Last season, the ball club earned local and regional respect. This season, Calciano expects them to earn the national acclaim that elite teams earn by finishing campaigns as strongly as they start them.
Conference play begins March 26. But before that crescendo, there will be another trip to Florida, where another sun-rested team will surely await our boys of the frozen-over fields. And this time, a hungry Golden Rams club won’t sneak up on anyone.
Yet with a stable of thoroughbreds and a mentor intent on “motivating, teaching, and developing” them, we should expect a spring of championship baseball this season. Under Coach Calciano’s guidance anything can happen.