The West Chester University baseball team is off to a 12-4 start to the season, highlighted by a 3-1 trip to Virginia in the Division II Baseball Challenge, and a 5-2 trip to Florida in the Russmatt Invitational over spring break. The Golden Rams recently opened up PSAC Conference play this week with back-to-back doubleheaders against Shippensburg University.
WCU started off the DII Baseball Challenge with a three-game winning streak to advance to the championship game, moving past Philadelphia University, St. Thomas Aquinas, and fellow PSAC-school, Slippery Rock University. Like many West Chester Athletics teams have seemed to do in recent seasons, the Golden Rams squared off against East Stroudsburg University in the championship game.
The championship game was certainly a high-scoring affair, with ESU coming out on top for an 18-10 victory. Nick Bateman hit a pair of three-run home runs, and Drew Diehl tacked on a home run of his own for West Chester. The Golden Rams gave up a combined 14 runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and that proved to be too much to overcome.
West Chester started off the trip to Florida with a four-game winning streak, with wins over Notre Dame College (Ohio), two against Pace University, and Minnesota State University, Mankato. WCU suffered its first loss on the trip after splitting a double header with Slippery Rock University, 15-0 and 1-17.
It was a tale of two opposites in the doubleheader. West Chester captured game one, reeling off 13 hits for 15 runs, and held Slippery Rock to just three hits. Shane Dressler went 3-for-4 in the opener with a 3-run home run and finished with four RBIs. Robert Knox and Joe Sheeran also homered for the Golden Rams in the opener. Nick Ward homered for WCU in the second game for the only run of the game in the 17-1 loss.
West Chester had its chance at revenge in the finale of the Florida trip the next day with a final matchup against Slippery Rock, but once again fell short in a back and forth 11-9 loss. The two sides traded the lead four times during the game, but four-run innings in the fourth and sixth for Slippery Rock proved to be too much for the Golden Rams to overcome. WCU scored nine runs on just six hits, while Slippery Rock scored 11 runs on 18 hits. Sheeran and Ward led the Rams with a pair of RBI.
After closing out the Florida trip, West Chester was back in familiar territory this past week with matchups against University of Science in Philadelphia, and a home-and-home doubleheader against Shippensburg. WCU used a three-run sixth inning to take down the U of Sciences 3-1. Mike Cipolla picked up the win on the mound, improving his record to 3-0 on the season. The pair of doubleheaders against Shippensburg marked the opening of PSAC play for the Golden Rams.
West Chester split the doubleheader, 14-9 and 12-3. Dressler hit his second and third home runs of the year, going 4-for-5 on the day, including seven RBIs. Five WCU players had a multi-hit first game, including Ward, Diehl, Anthony Salomone, and Bill Ford. Dalton Reed picked up the win on the mound in game one to improve to 3-1 on the season. Mike O’Neil picked up his fifth save on the season during the Golden Ram win. Cipolla pitched game two for West Chester, suffering his first loss of the season, allowing five earned runs in five innings.
Including the March 19 match up against Shippensburg, West Chester has played in four doubleheaders this season, and in two of those doubleheaders they’ve lost game two. The Golden Rams need to be able to string together a pair of wins every doubleheader opportunity they get in order to build some momentum, and they did that on Saturday, winning the games 6-4 and 9-5. Diehl went 3-for-8 on the day, including a pair of homers, and also scored three runs along the way. Senior first basemen Justin Roman also went 3-for-8 on the day with a home run of his own, adding four RBIs and scoring three runs of his own.
West Chester is getting key production from its big name players. The Golden Rams currently have six players batting over .300 with at least 25 at-bats, with Dressler leading the way with a .358 average, including three homeruns and 18 RBIs. Ward is third on the team with a .328 batting average, and stands second on the team with 10 RBIs. Cipolla and Reed are leading the way on the mound, each going 3-1 on the season, while O’Neil has lead the way in the latter half of games, leading the team with six saves.
West Chester currently stands in third place in the PSAC East with a record of 12-4 on the season, trailing Millersville and East Stroudsburg, who are 19-1 and 19-2, respectively. As long of the core of the order continues to produce with consistent hitting and the pitching rotation continues to stay well-rounded, the Golden Rams look to be on track for another successful season. WCU faces off with first-place Millersville University this week with a home-and-home pair of doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday March 25 and 26.
Dylan Harrison is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. They can be reached at DH785892@wcupa.edu