The University of Charleston baseball team continued its dominance in the Mountain East Conference, winning its fifth straight South Division title on Friday.
The Golden Eagles did so by shutting out their rival West Virginia State 4-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in the Kanawha Classic at home at behind the arm of sophomore Cole Peschl.
UC completed the sweep, defeating the Yellow Jackets 4-2 in the second game to improve to 38-8 overall and 26-4 in league play. The Golden Eagles are ranked fourth in the latest Atlantic Regional rankings.
“That is five straight years winning the South,” UC coach Robbie Britt said. “We talked a lot as a group about sharing that common goal, and that is kind of the baseline for us. In order to win a ring, you have to win some kind of championship, and this group has done that.
“I’m really proud of our group. It feels good. For them to be able to experience this with how consistent they have been all season, that is what I’m most fired up about.”
Peschl was dominant throughout, pitching the complete-game shutout, going seven innings with 12 strikeouts and just three hits allowed.
“Cole is a professional the way he goes about his business, the way he attacks hitters, and his stuff,” Britt said. “He has been nails for us all year, and I would expect nothing less than that out of him. He will get an opportunity at the next level.”
Peschl was proud to be able to pitch the way he did in helping clinch the MEC South Division title for UC.
“That is something we talked about from day one,” Peschl said. “The first goal was to win the South, and after that, we look at the conference tournament, and then regionals. We achieved our first goal. I don’t think I’ve thrown a complete game since high school.”
Peschl has transitioned his role within the UC pitching staff, going from closer to starter, but has excelled in both. He is 8-1 on the season with a 2.16 earned run average. He has three starts and three saves in 16 appearances.
“I was the closer last season, and at the beginning of the year, I started out in that role as usual,” Peschl said. “They asked me if I wanted to start a few games, so I was confident doing it with the work I put in. It’s fun to be starting again.”
UC is well-balanced, with the second-best earned run average in the MEC behind West Virginia State. The league-leading Golden Eagle offense has been lighting up opposing pitching staffs, especially of late.
Heading into the doubleheader against State, over the last 13 games, the UC offense had scored 161 runs for an average of more than 12 runs a game, and had scored at least 10 runs or more in 10 of the games.
While they didn’t hit that number again against WVSU, the offense was more than enough as Drew Beckner, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, hit a three-run homer in the second inning to give the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead.
“It shows how balanced we are as a team, and that is what we try to do in terms of recruiting,” Britt said. “We are able to hit the ball out from top to bottom. Drew is a two-way player. For him to develop offensively versus last year, when he was really just helping us out on the mound, is so great to see.”
MEC Player of the Year candidate Kyle West hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for UC to provide some insurance. West, a Hedgesville graduate, leads the league in batting average (.411), slugging and on-base percentage. He has also hit 18 home runs with 50 RBIs.
“Kyle and Tyler Dellerman both should be player of the year candidates,” Britt said. “Kyle is another pro. I haven’t coached very many guys that have the skills, mindset and work ethic that he has.
“What I will say is Kyle West is not Kyle West without Tyler Dellerman, and vice versa. They are the best two players in the league, and a lot of it is they feed off each other.”
Britt is proud of players such as West, Beckner and others on winning another MEC South Division title when they had plenty of offers elsewhere, including the Division I level.
“I think that is why people come to Charleston,” Britt said. “Drew, Kyle and others have had D-I opportunities, but they come to UC because they can win at a high level nationally, and have a chance to play early on in their careers.”
“It’s great to have had this much success, but I have to give credit to the guys around me,” West said. “It’s great to be conference champions again. It’s a surreal feeling you can only get so often. It’s always great to better yourself around other winners, and we like to win here at UC.”
State pitcher Tyler Lafferty threw five innings, allowing the four earned runs on the two home runs, but scattered six hits, struck out seven and held UC to less than five runs for the first time in their previous 13 games. The WVSU ace leads the MEC in earned run average (2.47).
“Tyler threw the ball well and did a good job,” State coach Sean Loyd said. “Four runs should give you a chance to win a game, especially against a great offense like UC. We just didn’t do our part with the bats. It’s great any time you can run a guy out there like him.”