By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Looking for the best college baseball team in the area? You probably don’t have to look any further than West Chester University.  The Golden Rams are 23-1 on the season and enjoying an 18-game winning streak.   As a result, West Chester has skyrocketed to the #5 ranking in all of Division II.

Needless to say, first-year head coach Jad Prachniak has hit the ground running at West Chester but he says success like this was hard to anticipate.

“When I got to campus and got with the guys in the fall, I knew we had a balanced baseball team.  I thought we had some pretty talented kids.  I thought we could score some runs, I thought we had pretty good pitching, I thought we could play defense.”

At the plate, the Golden Rams are hitting .344 as a team.  Seven different players are hitting over .300 and Prachniak says that means it’s a difficult line-up to pitch to.

“It’s pretty good 1 through 9.  And I think one of the keys is, it’s hard to pitch around any one guy so it forces guys to get into the strike zone and challenge guys and then we’re able to have some good at-bats early in the game.  And sometimes later in the game, pitchers tend to work around the strike zone and we get baserunners in other ways – whether that’s getting hit by a pitch or taking a walk.”

The heart of this line-up is Joe Wendle.  The senior second baseman is hitting a lusty .438 out of the three-hole with team highs of eight home runs and 36 runs batted in.  The lefthanded hitter also enjoys a .509 on-base percentage and ranks among the top 10 all-time in 11 offensive categories at the school.

West Chester’s pitching staff might be the beneficiary of 9.3 runs a game in support, but they more than hold up their end of the bargain.  The Golden Rams have a team ERA of 3.18 and they have allowed just 164 hits in 187 innings of work.  WCU hurlers also don’t hurt themselves, witness just 69 walks in those 187 innings.

“I think we have good balance on the pitching staff,” Prachniak says.  “I think we give teams different looks over the course of a weekend.  We have some power arms, guys with some higher velocity.  And then we have also have some guys that are a little more on the crafty side, guys that can locate and change speeds well.  So I think over the course of a weekend, you’ll see different types of arms which can through the other team off a little bit offensively.”

Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Jad Prachniak:

While West Chester’s success has created a lot of excitement with regards to just how far this team can go,  Prachniak says they can’t get ahead of themselves.

“We’ve played well.  I also recognize we have some very tough weekends coming up in conference.  Even midweek, we have some good competition as well.  The way our weekends are set-up, we play back-to-back doubleheaders , every game is really difficult.  Each team is very familiar with one another by the end of the weekend, so it forces you to play a very complete game to get out of there with wins.  And I know that the competition coming up is not going to be easy.  It’s cliche, but we’re going to take it one game at a time and put our best foot forward and hopefully that does it right for us.”

West Chester’s current 18-game winning streak, is a new record for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.   They will try to extend that streak in a Friday doubleheader against Shippensburg.