The following is a press release from the West Chester University Athletic Department.
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper recently selected West Chester University as its preseason No. 1-ranked program heading into the 2013 campaign. It marks the first time in program history that West Chester has been preseason ranked No. 1 by any media or coaches' poll.
The defending national champions earned 628 points, outdistancing national runner-up Delta State (614 points). The Golden Rams topped the Statesmen, 9-0, in the NCAA Division II title game last June to pick up the school's first national title in baseball while becoming the first team from the state of Pennsylvania to win an NCAA baseball championship at any level.
West Chester (46-10) has its work cut out for them as they try to replace All-America second baseman Joe Wendle, currently playing in the Cleveland Indians organization, along with departed shortstop Josh Heyne and catcher Reid Pulford. Second-year head coach Jad Prachniak needs to rebuild up the the middle defensively.
Prachniak will start with a solid nucleus returning on the mound, led by junior right-hander and preseason All-America pick in Joe Gunkel. The 2012 most outstanding player of the Division II Tournament in Cary, N.C., threw a pair of complete-game shutouts, including the national title game, to propel West Chester to the crown. Behind Gunkel in the rotation is senior righty Fred Breidenbach, who was tabbed as a player to watch in the Atlantic Region by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Also earning preseason All-America accolades from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper was senior DH Jordan Wlodarczyk, who hit .348 last year for the Golden Rams. "Woody" highlights a cast of five position players returning to the fold in 2013 for the Rams. CF Mike Raimo is another all-league candidate to watch.
West Chester opens defense of its national title on Feb. 8 with a non-league contest at Lander in Greenwood, S.C. It is the first game of a three-game set that runs through the weekend. The West Chester faithful will get their first glimpse of the champions on Saturday, Feb. 23 during a doubleheader against College of Saint Rose.