By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The West Chester University baseball team is off to Cary, North Carolina and the Division II College World Series.
The 42-10 Golden Rams will open play on Saturday afternoon in the double-elimination tournament format against Chico State out of California.
West Chester got here by winning the Atlantic Regional of the NCAA Tournament, and they did it in style. The Golden Rams rolled through the field without a scratch, winning all four games, including the regional championship over Kutztown, 6-0.
“I think we played very consistent in all facets throughout the tournament and that’s what allowed us to win the thing,” says West Chester head coach Jad Prachniak. “The margin for error in that tournament is so small and we were lucky to play very consistent throughout. But I think the starting pitching definitely set the tone, we had timely hitting and we played pretty good defense throughout.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Jad Prachniak:[audio http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/nyc.podcast.play.it/media/d0/d0/d1/d0/dK/dE/dM/10KEM_3.MP3]
The starting pitching was downright phenomenal in the regional. West Chester twirled three complete games, including two shutouts. Overall, the West Chester rotation went 4-0 with a 0.54 ERA in the four games. Senior righthander Jordan Lehman set the tone for the Golden Rams when he went the distance on a one-hitter against Shepherd in the tourney opener. He says they are well aware that they have a legitimate chance to win a national championship, but they can’t get ahead of themselves.
“It’s obviously there, thinking about the national championship, but there’s steps to get there. We have this saying, ‘First step, second step . . ‘ A lot of that is just a step to get to the final step and you don’t want to miss one, obviously. I think that’s the biggest thing is just staying on our path and preparing these next couple days and not getting away from what we’ve been doing all year.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Jordan Lehman:[audio http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/nyc.podcast.play.it/media/d0/d0/d1/d0/dK/dE/dP/10KEP_3.MP3]
At the plate, the Golden Rams are led by one of the nation’s best players in second baseman Joe Wendle. The senior is hitting .400 with 12 home runs and 57 RBI this season and he thinks his squad is ready for this challenge.
“I think we have to be confident throughout and just know that what we’ve been doing all year is going to take us to the championship, I think, if we can execute well.
Just try not to do too much, try not to let the outside distractions get to us and just focus on what we have to do on the field.”
Very few college baseball players get an opportunity like this, so Prachniak wants his team to savor the moment, but also not get lost in it.
“I think embracing the whole thing is really important. Going there you have to enjoy it and I think guys will enjoy it. But also recognizing you have the chance to do something really special. Getting there is special, but when you’re there you’d like to capitalize on the opportunity and just getting that focus, especially when the game starts, between the lines and doing all the things that we did well during the year, and just continue to do those things will give us a chance to hopefully win some games down there.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Joe Wendle:[audio http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/nyc.podcast.play.it/media/d0/d0/d1/d0/dK/dE/dO/10KEO_3.MP3]
Now this is West Chester’s third trip to the College World Series, the last came back in 2009. The Golden Rams are 1-4 all-time in College World Series play.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.