Fitzwater, Renner gave Shepherd baseball a winning edge
SHEPHERDSTOWN – The long-awaited Shepherd baseball season in 2003 was anticipated because coach Wayne Riser had two of the most effective starting pitchers in school history. And he had a batting order that also had names, which were among the best players any Rams team ever had.
Two long and lean right-handers were Riser’s pat answers to his competition in the WVIAC.
Both were transfers whose last college stop before coming to Shepherdstown was at Potomac State, a junior college in Keyser.
J.R. Fitzwater, six-foot-four and 195 pounds, had his college beginning at Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Conference, but he left there for Potomac State and then came to Shepherd with the strong suggestions of Riser.
Brian Renner was six-foot-five and 190 pounds. His path after high school had also taken him to Potomac State, a school with a number of Regional titles and visits to the National Junior College World Series.
Riser’s batting order had WVIAC Player of the Year Mike Spry as its focal point. But Spry, a senior, was far from the only potent bat the Rams carried.
A number of the hitters were juniors.
Jason Rhea had also come from Potomac State to play first base or be the designated hitter at times. Outfielders Josh Delawder and Jon Serrano were both juniors. Delawder came in from Potomac State and was always known in the state of West Virginia as basketball’s highest scorer in state history when he played for tiny Paw Paw High in Morgan County.
Probably the best catcher in school history was junior Charlie Drummond, who would pitch on the next year’s team when the Rams won the conference championship.
Jason Walck was a long-time starter at second base. Still another junior was outfielder Tavis Laws, a player with a high on-base percentage.
The third baseman was Joe Cook. Only a freshman, Cook would start for four years and put his name in the Shepherd record book in several career offensive categories.
When Fitzwater and Renner completed the 2003 season, both carried the school record for wins in a single season with 10. That mark has been moved to 11 by Paul Hvozdovic, Ryan Potts and Sam Crater. Both Fitzwater and Renner had 14 starts that season – another school record now owned by Hvozdovic.
Renner’s 92.2 innings pitched was also a new record that Hvozdovic now owns with his 108.2 innings in a season.
Shepherd’s overall record was 25-18 and the team went 18-6 in the WVIAC. The Rams went 1-2 in the league’s postseason tournament and weren’t the champion.
There had never been two pitchers with double-figure wins in the same season before Fitzwater and Renner . . . and there hasn’t been such a combination since.
Those two posted 20 of the team’s 25 wins. And made Shepherd a prohibitive favorite every time they took the mound.