WCU wins Div. II College World Series

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West Chester University’s baseball team celebrates winning the 2017 Division II College World Series, Sunday, in Texas. Image courtesy: West Chester University Athletics.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Unionville’s Nick Ward clubbed a third-inning homer, combined with a first inning shot by Robert Knox and Josh McClain’s clutch four innings of relief (en route to earning Most Outstanding Player) as West Chester University captured its second Division II College World Series in five years, beating the University of California at San Diego, 5-2, Sunday.

West Chester (44-11) went unbeaten in the national finals with four straight wins. The Golden Rams have now won eight straight games at the DII national championships, dating back to the team’s last visit to the finals. West Chester won the national title in 2012, going 4-0 in Cary, N.C.

“I think it starts with talent on the field,” sixth-year head coach Jad Prachniak said about his success at the finals. “Both teams had depth and played very consistently. You are going to face resistence along the way during a season. This team was exceptional in handling those moments and minimizing the effects – especially on the back end of the season in the conference tournament, regionals and down here.”

UC San Diego (44-19) came out of the loser’s bracket and needed to defeat West Chester twice on Sunday. However, the Golden Rams took care of business in game one.

Knox started the game off in style with a home run to left field, his second of the year. Ward followed with a solo shot in the third that put West Chester back out in front, 2-1.

“When (Knox) led off the game with that home run, I just had a great feeling that we were going to win this game today,” Ward said. “(UCSD) played us tough and put some doubt in the back of my head. But, (Knox) set the tone early.”

The West Chester University baseball team celebrates its second national title since 2012 with the trophy, Sunday.

UC San Diego had tied the game in the second when J.D. Hearn hit a one-out triple and later scored on a single. The Tritons evened things up at 2-apiece in the sixth on a double-play groundout with the bases loaded.

McClain, the West Chester closer  who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, came on in relief of starter Jon Fisher in the sixth with the bases loaded and nobody out. However, The Tritons were only able to muster that one run to knot the game. McClain got out of that jam without any more damage and seemed in control the rest of the way.

“I think temperament wise, you saw what this team is made of,” Prachniak added. “We faced an adverse situation there in the sixth, and (McClain) came in and did his thing. He minimized the damage there.”

The Golden Rams struck for a single tally in the seventh when catcher Clay Harwick  singled home Joe Sheeran to put the Rams back on top, 3-2. West Chester then put the game away in the eighth with a two-spot.

“Tacking on those two runs late was huge,” Knox added.

Shane Dressler singled to right, plating Ward. Nick Bateman then hit into a fielder’s choice, beating out the throw on an attempted double-play, that allowed Jared Melone to score, putting the Rams up, 5-2.

McClain appeared in all four games of the national finals in Grand Prairie, earning the win twice and picking up a save as well. He pitched four innings, allowing one hit while walking one and striking out three. Fisher, making his second start of the finals, lasted five innings, surrendering two runs, only one of them earned, on five hits while walking two and striking out one.

McClain finished 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings of work in Grand Prairie. He allowed two earned runs on five hits overall while walking six and striking out seven to be named the most outstanding player of the tournament. Joining McClain on the all-tournament team were Melone (1B) and Ward (SS).

NOTES: West Chester was making its fourth appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championships (2006, 2009, 2012, 2017) … West Chester has won the national title twice (2012, 2017) … sixth-year head coach Jad Prachniak remains perfect in the national finals round of the tournament (8-0) in his college coaching career. He was 4-0 in 2012, leading West Chester to its first national title and was 4-0 again this week in winning the title once again … West Chester has not lost in the national finals since an 8-6 setback to UC San Diego in 2009 that eliminated the Golden Rams from that finals … West Chester is still the only Division II team from the northeastern part of the United States to win the national title … West Chester is also the only school at any level from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to win the national title … Sr., RHP Josh McClain tied the school’s single-season record for wins with his 11th victory of the year Sunday.

All-Tournament Team
Michael Palos — Catcher– UC – San Diego
Jared Malone — First Base — West Chester
J. D. Hearn — Second Base — UC – San Diego
Alex Eliopulos — Third Base — UC – San Diego
Nick Ward — Shortstop — West Chester
Drew Quinones — Designated Hitter — Lindenwood
Wes Degener — Outfield — Lindenwood
Jack Larsen — Outfield– UC – San Diego
Giovanni Dingcong — Outfield — St. Thomas Aquinas
Tre Hobbs — Pitcher– Delta State
Josh McClain — Pitcher — West Chester
Most Outstanding Player = Josh McClain (West Chester)

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