West Chester Preview
West Chester, which won the regional title last spring and reached the NCAA Division II National Championships, is again projected to be one of the best teams in the country. 

The Golden Rams, who finished 36-15 last season, enter the year ranked No. 7 in the NCBWA Preseason Poll. 

The program lost some mighty talent in hurler Braden Fausnaught (130 strikeouts), outfielder Zack Wright (.882 OPS), and first baseman Mike Ferrara (1.114 OPS). The good news is the program returns 20 players from last year's roster, including hurlers Joe Sperone and Gabe Rappa.

"The core that returns has some great leadership, and that's huge for us," said head coach Mike LaRosa. "That helps us a lot with managing those expectations. Sometimes coming off a successful season you see some complacency, but I'm not seeing that with this group." 

Sperone, a junior right-hander out of Cardinal O'Hara, finished with an 8-2 record last year with a 3.62 ERA. Rappa was 6-3 and posted a 5.95 ERA. Both guys pitched well in conference play last year, plus made appearances in the NCAA Tournament. 

"Sperone definitely looks as if he's taken a step forward this year," LaRosa said. "He spent some time in the Coastal League, and I think it helped with his approach. He was a great guy for us last year, and I see that improving this season. His stuff looks even better." 

Outfielder Luke Cantwell, a Marple Newtown product, was an All-Atlantic Region selection by the NCBWA a year ago and an All-PSAC honoree. He hit .305 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs. His 103 total bases were second on the club. 

"We see him taking another step forward, that will be great for us," LaRosa said.

The Golden Rams also have a pair of transfers that may make an impact immediately on the mound. David Ferguson, a redshirt sophomore from the University of Pittsburgh, is a 6-foot-6 righty with power stuff, while Malvern Prep graduate Josh Paulina joins the Golden Rams after spending some time in the San Diego Padres' organization. 

"These two guys are going to play a major role for us as we head into conference play," LaRosa said. "They both know how to command the zone, plus had a good fall. I think they both will make an impact." 

Another arm to watch is sophomore Kyle Lazer. 

The Bonner-Prendie graduate led the Golden Rams with a 2.80 ERA over 45 innings. He was 5-2 with five saves in 18 appearances and struck out 45 while walking 13. He also was a Second-Team ABCA/Rawlings All-Atlantic Region honoree. 

"Can't say enough good things about him," LaRosa said.

New Name to Watch 
David Alleva | Sophomore | 1B 
A transfer from Stony Brook that graduated from Bishop Eustace, he has some power and could see a bit of time in the lineup. 

"He has some juice." LaRosa said. "He could be a major factor for us as the season wears on." 

Breakout Candidate 
Evan Profy | Junior | OF 
The Truman grad will hit leadoff while starting in the outfield. He's seen limited action the last two season with just six at-bats. 

"He's ready, he just never has had an opportunity because of who was playing in front of him," said LaRosa. 

Upcoming Schedule 
The Golden Rams won three-of-four contests this week, sweeping Clarion while splitting with Tiffin. The club returns to action on Friday with a weekend series in Glenville, WV with contests against D'Youville, Mercyhurst, and Pittsburgh-Johnstown. 

West Chester opens the home portion of its schedule on March 11 with a doubleheader against Shippensburg.
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