CARY, N.C. – West Chester blanked Delta State 9-0 to claim its first national championship on Saturday night behind the arm of Joe Gunkel.
West Chester (46-10) completed its perfect run through the NCAA tournament with a five-hit shutout from Gunkel (10-1). The sophomore went 2-0 in the Division II Baseball Championship and did not allow a run in 18 innings of work while only yielding six combined hits. Gunkel was named the tournament’s most outstanding player for his efforts in the series opener against Chico State and Saturday night in the finals against Delta State (49-18).
The Golden Rams went 4-0 in the Atlantic Regional and duplicated that performance in Cary by knocking off Chico State, Southern New Hampshire, Catawba and Delta State, respectively. They end the 2012 season with a 12-game winning streak and tied the school record for most wins in a single season (46).
West Chester becomes the first team from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) to win the national championship and just the third northern school to walk away with the title.
“When you see this spot on TV, there is that surreal feeling that hasn’t sunk in yet,” West Chester head coach Jad Prachniak said. “That’s how I feel right now. It’s going to take a while to digest all of this.
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“I came into a situation where we had some talented baseball players, who were unbelievable kids that followed through on everything.”
West Chester posted five runs in the bottom of the first inning to get on top of the Statesmen early and never looked back. Mike Raimo led off with a walk, and Jack Provine followed with a double down the left-field line. Joe Wendle then walked to load the bases with nobody out. Chris Pula singled in a run, and Justin Lamborn drew a bases loaded walk to score the first two runs of the contest. Matt Baer then singled in a pair of runs to double the lead to 4-0.
“It was good getting that five-spot,” Prachniak continued. “It changed the course of the game and limited some of the things that [Delta State] likes to do.”
“It takes a tremendous amount of pressure off,” Gunkel commented. “All year long we’ve talked about shut-down innings after our team scores.”
Delta State then lifted starter Colton Mitchell, who did not retire a batter. After a strikeout, Josh Heyne singled in the fifth run of the game. The Golden Rams would tack on single tallies in the second and third and then add a pair of insurance runs in the fifth.
Heyne and Pula each finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs while Wendle went 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of runs scored.
Gunkel scattered five hits over nine innings in the complete-game shutout. He becomes the eighth pitcher in school history to record double digits in victories in a single season.
“This year, we had a different mentality,” Wendle said. “Just from being here in 2009 and seeing the teams we played, we left there with a bitter taste. We knew if we executed well and hit at the right time, that we had a good chance.”