Friday night before the West Chester Rams travelled to Mansfield University to wrap up the away half of the back-to-back double-headers against the PSAC foe, I was able to sit down and chat with life-long friend and 2013 Kutztown Area High School alumni, Andrew Gernert. Gernert serves as one of the team captains for the Rams and one of the ace pitchers on the No. 12 ranked division two baseball squad. In addition to catching up and reminiscing on old times of high school baseball, I was able to talk to him about his final season in the purple and gold and get his opinions on the season thus far, as well as how the Rams fare as they approach postseason play with a little more than one week left in the regular season.
MAX RANDOLPH: Currently your 28-7 overall and 18-4 in PSACs, what would you contribute the strong season most to, thus far?
ANDREW GERNERT: I might be somewhat biased, but I think that our strong pitching thus far has really propelled our team to the start that we have had. We knew coming into the year that our offense was going to be strong, but with the strong pitching to go along with it we are a tough team to beat.
MR: What is it about playing at home that makes you guys that much better and able to produce a 13-1 record here in West Chester?
AG: I feel like playing at Serpico Field is just more comfortable for us. When we are at home we have a set schedule and the day just feels more fluent. Playing in front of the home fans also inspires a team to play better.
MR: Through nearly 33 innings of work so far through the season and able to post a 4.96 ERA in eight games you’ve appeared in, what is one thing you’ve felt you’ve done really good and something you feel you need to improve on in your final couple of starts before post-season play?
AG: I feel that I have had great energy this year when I am on the mound. I think that is essential to pitching well especially in the PSAC. Although I have not had the success so far in this season that I have had in previous seasons I feel that I still have the same energy level, which is important. Overall I just need to get back to being more consistent with locating pitches, and if I do that then the success will follow.
MR: How do you think your senior leadership has affected the ball team and dugout during the game?
AG: Our team is very senior heavy with somewhere around 12 seniors. Having a large amount of seniors is beneficial because all of us seniors have been in this position before and have played in the playoffs. Since we know what to expect, we have been able to guide the younger players in the right direction and set the tone for the team.
MR: What aspect in your game have you seen change the most from freshman year all the way to where you are now, a month or so left in your final season?
AG: I feel that I am more reliant now on my off-speed pitches than I was a freshman just out of high school. Hitters at this level can usually adjust to any fastball they see, so I felt that it was important to develop my two off-speed pitches even further to give myself a better opportunity to succeed.
MR: How has your role on the team changed from being the youngest in the team in your first year coming out of little Kutztown, as opposed to being a senior who is relied on heavily with your pitching?
AG: Obviously my workload on the mound has increased steadily throughout the years, but I think that my role as a leader on this team has steadily increased as well. I was honored when I was named a team captain because it means that I have had a positive impact on my teammates. As a senior more people are looking to you as a role model both on and off the field so there is just more responsibility.
MR: What has played into your mindset moving into the role of being the back end of the pitching rotation and usually pitching the 4th and last game of the back-to-back double-headers in PSAC play?
AG: I actually enjoy pitching the last game of the series. Pitching game four for the last four years gives me the opportunity to help the team end the weekend on a high note. For many teams the game four pitcher is perceived to be much easier to hit against than the other pitchers, and I take that as a challenge to be the best that I can be. Our team has not lost a game four since my sophomore year and I take great pride in that fact. I just want to give my team an opportunity to come out of the game with a win and have been lucky enough to have had some success in doing so throughout my career.
MR: What are you going to miss most about suiting up for the purple and gold?
AG: Honestly I am just going to miss being around the guys during bus rides, practices, and games. There is nothing like having that type of camaraderie with others and nothing comes close to the environment that goes with being on a baseball field.
MR: How far to do you think this particular Rams baseball team can go in post-season play?
AG: To quote Michael Jordan, “The ceiling is the roof.” (laughing) But really, we have the potential to do a lot of damage in post-season play. We are balanced on offense and defense and have depth on both ends as well. All of these strengths make us a force to reckon with in the post-season.
MR: Last question, do you honestly think you can still strike me out?
AG: Absolutely. (laughing)
MR: I don’t know about that one, we might have to put that to the test. (jokingly)
AG: Yeah, maybe!
Maxwell Randolph can be reached at MR829829@wcupa.edu.