Ward and WCU Baseball ready for regional playoffs
● By J. Chambless
Nick Ward gets congratulations at home plate after hitting his 13th home run of the year, tying the WCU single season home run record.
By Chris Jarmuz
It seems like yesterday that the Golden
Rams left town for their spring break 18-hour overnight bus ride to
Kissimmee, Fla., to take part in the Sunshine State Games, joining
other Division 2 schools from around the country.
In the Florida sun, West Chester was 5-1, beating the likes of Seton Hill, Slippery Rock, Wayne State, Grand Valley State and University of Minnesota Crookston, before losing their final game to Northwood, who had their second team All American pitcher on the mound that day.
Coming back home, WCU was looking to stay hot to kick off conference play against Lock Haven. However, due to snow in the West Chester area, all four games had to be played up in Lock Haven that weekend. In the end, West Chester lost three of four games.
Although defending National Champions, the 2018 edition of the WCU Golden Rams had to find their own way to get on track by integrating some new pieces and leaning heavily on their upper classmen.
Things have come together nicely as West Chester boasts an overall record of 31-13, 20-8 in conference, including wins in seven of their last eight conference games.
As a result of this surge, West Chester was the PSAC East Conference regular season champion for the second year in a row, and through a strong finish to the season is ranked No. 1 in the region. So despite a couple of losses in the conference playoffs this past week, West Chester will have a bye in the Regional Tournament which will begin on May 16 in Reading.
Nonetheless, with respect to upper classman, senior shortstop Nick Ward (who was a Unionville High School standout) has been a key part of the surge to the top for West Chester. To this point in the season, Ward is batting .372, with 10 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 48 runs batted in, 68 runs scored, 29 walks and a lofty .510 on-base percentage.
His 13 home runs are one shy of breaking the WCU single season record. It is worth noting that Nick passed Joey Wendle, the Tampa Bay Day Devil Ray second baseman, who played his high school baseball at Avon Grove and was part of the 2012 WCU National Championship team.
The bottom line is that Nick Ward has been amazingly productive, batting second in the lineup, setting the table for those behind him, or knocking in runners on base ahead of him. He is hoping that the season can be prolonged for as long as possible, with the Regionals this week in Reading, and possibly another trip to the National Championship Series, this time in Cary, N.C.