8. WEST CHESTER GOLDEN RAMS (46-10)
Final 2012 Ranking: 1
Last season West Chester came out of left field to became the first PSAC team to win the national championship and just the third northern school to walk off the field with the DII baseball title. After a disappointing 2011 season in which they only finished a game over .500, little was expected from the Golden Rams in 2012. In fact, only a single publication had the Nostradamusesque foresight to include them in their Preseason Top 30. However the Rams reeled off wins in twenty-five of their first twenty-six games under the guidance of first year Head Coach Jad Prachniak and, after a midseason slump, ended the season by going 12-0 in their last dozen games to take the title to Pennsylvania. The team has the experience and drive to make it back to Cary, but will they have the players they need to make it there?
Winning back-to-back titles may be just as improbable as last year’s title run. WCU lost eight seniors who played important roles including 2B Joe Wendle who was drafted in the sixth round by Cleveland. Nonetheless, don’t completely count out Prachniak’s club to make a return to Cary. WCU returns six of eight of the top ERA’s from last year’s team, including über ace Joe Gunkel who went 10-1 with a 2.07 ERA and was named the Most Outstanding Player for the DII Championships. Gunkel, had a dominating postseason performance which included a one-hitter against Chico State in the DII CWS. Also back on the mound is Brady Breidenbach who has gone 20-4 in seasons at West Chester as well as Matt McAllister who was a perfect 6-0 with a 2.44 ERA after transferring in from Penn State Abington.
Offensively the Rams are going to need someone to step up and replace Wendle’s production at the plate as well as a new starting shortstop and catcher. DH Jordan Wlodarczyk and OF Jack Provine have shown the ability to hit over .350 and 1B Chris Pula is a threat to go deep when he steps up to the plate. The Rams’ staff anticipates a big year from OF Tyler Coleman, who after being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma early in 2012, to be back at 100% and be a regular contributor on the diamond.