Rallying Rams: Unusually close game won at Fairfax Field
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Sun bathing and college baseball were the co-stars this past Monday at Shepherd’s cozy Fairfax Field.
The Shepherd students doused themselves with suntan lotion, and Rams’ outfielder Nick Atkinson provided the game-winning run with a far-gone, solo homer in the bottom of the seventh that meant a 6-5 win over West Liberty in the opener of a typical Mountain East Conference doubleheader.
The Rams had trailed, 5-0, going to the last of the fourth on a sun-owned afternoon welcomed by players and fans alike.
Silence had been the theme from Shepherd’s often robust batting order.
Shepherd had not lost even one game at home this season. In fact, the Rams had never had to bat in the last of the seventh of any game, but that all changed, as West Liberty carried its lead to the fourth inning.
After the dust from walks, a hit batsman, wild pitches and a seldom-seen fielding error had settled, the Rams were behind only 5-3. Another Shepherd turn with the same sort of scenario had the Rams back even at 5-5. And relief pitcher Andrew Miller was blanking the Hilltoppers with the immense help from Atkinson, who threw out the potential tie-breaking run at the plate when catcher Eddie Nottingham stretched out for the outfielder’s throw and tagged Colton Coss as he attempted to score.
Then in the Shepherd seventh, Atkinson deposited a fastball from Luke Nees far into the jungle of overgrown brush, weeds and trees beyond the leftfield barrier.
Shepherd had won, 6-5. And the whole squad mobbed Atkinson as he crossed the plate, moving the Rams’ record to 18-0 in home games this season.
It was only the second one-run verdict the Rams have won out of the seven they have played.
The nightcap was far less melodramatic as Shepherd pummeled the Hilltoppers, 13-1, after falling behind, 1-0, into the third.
Now 29-10 overall after the second-game heroics from Nottingham (3-for-3), Jared Carr (2-for-3) and Justin Smith (four RBIs), Shepherd rose to 19-3 in conference games, far ahead of both Notre Dame and Fairmont State, the remaining competition in the North Division.
Ryan Marketell was the winning pitcher, with five solid innings of work.
One game was a narrow Shepherd victory. The other was a more typical blowout win on the home grounds.
The sun captured the hearts of most of the students. Shepherd captured two more wins in its quest for another bid to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament.