CARY, N.C. – Sophomore right-hander Joe Gunkel, a graduate of Hershey High School, tossed a complete-game, one-hitter as 13th-ranked West Chester University opened the 2012 NCAA Division II national finals with a 4-0 shutout over Chico State on Saturday afternoon at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
West Chester (43-10) advances into the winner’s bracket and will take on the winner of Southern New Hampshire vs. Minnesota State-Mankato, which will be played at 5 p.m., on Monday evening at 5 p.m. Chico State (40-18) drops into the loser’s bracket and will play the loser of that Southern New Hampshire vs. Minnesota-Mankato contest on Monday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
Gunkel (9-1) took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, before left-handed pinch-hitter Abel Alcantar laced a single into center field on the first pitch he saw.
“Our pitchers have been fairly consistent throughout the year,” West Chester first-year head coach Jad Prachniak said, according to West Chester's athletics website. “But, we are facing some really good teams and getting our best efforts in the postseason. “I think (Chico State) put the barrell of the bat on some balls. But, from the first game of the World Series standpoint, this was as impressive of a performance as I have seen from (Gunkel).”
“A lot of pitchers will tell you that they don’t know they are throwing a no-hitter,” Gunkel said. “But, they know. They can see the scoreboard.
“I didn’t have my best stuff. But, I just let them put the ball in play, and they hit a lot of balls right at people.”West Chester scored first on a RBI single from Chris Pula in the bottom of the first inning that plated Mike Raimo. The Golden Rams then added three more in the second on a two-run single thru the left side by Raimo and a double by Jack Provine that chased home Raimo.
From there, the Golden Rams turned the game over to Gunkel, and he took care of the rest.
“You have to tip your cap to (Gunkel),” Chico State head coach Dave Taylor said. “He kept the ball down, yet elevated when he needed to. To pitch in a no-hitter situation after the fifth inning with all that is at stake in a College World Series setting was something.”
West Chester has now won nine in a row, and Gunkel recorded the team’s fourth shutout of the postseason. Gunkel threw just 99 pitches and recorded 15 flyball outs. Raimo snared six of those 15 flyballs, adding a sliding catch of a sinking liner into center field on the first batter of the game.
Chico State starter Kagen Hopkins (8-4) lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up four runs, three of them earned, on six hits. Reliever Morgan Yee came on and shut down West Chester the rest of the way. He threw 4.1 innings of two-hit ball and did not allow a run.
West Chester third baseman Justin Lamborn made a bare-handed stab of a bunt down the line by West Regional MVP Miles Dempsey and threw him out at first in the fifth inning. He then made a running catch of a foul pop by Eric Angerer in the sixth leaning over the railing of the dugout.
“We don’t play on too many fields with a railing in front of the dugout,” Lamborn commented afterwards when asked if he had made any similar catches in his college career.
Information used in this story was provided by West Chester University.