Shepherd softball advances to Super Regional level
SHEPHERDSTOWN – And then there were only 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Division II softball national tournament. And Shepherd was one of those 16 select teams.
After going 23-9 in the Mountain East Conference’s regular season, Shepherd next played in the six-school league tournament.
The Rams couldn’t win the conference tournament – losing their opener to Charleston, 5-0, stopping Notre Dame 5-1 in the loser’s bracket, defeating Fairmont 5-3 in another loser’s bracket game, and finally being eliminated from the double elimination tournament when they fell, 2-0, to Concord.
But the regular season record had been enough to earn the Rams the No. 4 seed in the two-division Atlantic Regional of the national tournament.
Shepherd was placed in the Region One section of the Atlantic Regional, along with West Liberty, Lock Haven (Pa.) and Concord.
In that event hosted by West Liberty, the Rams defeated Concord, 10-2, in six innings in their opening game. And then Shepherd stopped Lock Haven in an 11-inning pitcher’s duel, which the Rams won, 3-0.
In the championship game of that Atlantic Regional section, Shepherd beat top-seeded West Liberty, 3-0.
Winning that event sent the Rams to the Super Regional against host West Chester, now 37-19, after winning the Region Two section.
The Super Region will be a best two-out-of-three tournament with West Chester hosting every game. Play in that event was scheduled to begin yesterday, with Game Two and Game Three (if necessary) slated for today.
Shepherd and West Chester did not meet in the 2019 regular season, but do have some recent history, since Shepherd beat the Golden Rams, 7-3, last season. Shepherd’s lifetime record versus West Chester is 3-6.
The survivor of the Shepherd versus West Chester series will quality for the NCAA Division II College World Series, an eight-team affair where the winner takes home the national championship.
Shepherd will carry a 41-16 overall record to West Chester.
The Rams have a .272 team batting average and a trio of the .300 hitters in their lineup.
Katlyn Konopka takes a .330 batting average into the Super Regional. She was successful on 27 of 32 stolen base attempts. Connor Gilligan hit .327, had 39 RBIs and six home runs.
Nicole Purtell batted .319 , scored 44 runs and was successful on 11-of-12 stolen base tries. Lori Sturgill hit .267 with five homers. Ashley Burger batted .258, Rachel Taylor hit .252, Leann Brown has a .223 batting average and Morgan Cox takes a .214 average into the West Chester series. In 19 starts, Kayla Wilt batted .308 and in 18 starts, Lindsey Anderson batted .270.
Carrying much of the responsibility for any Shepherd success are pitchers Sturgill (18-7 record with a 1.54 ERA) and Taylor Stocks (18-6 record with a 2.12 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 144.1 innings pitched). Cheyenne Van Pelt had seven starts in the 57-game season. She was 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA.
Shepherd’s 41 wins ties the school record for number of victories in a single season.
No Shepherd team has ever won its way to the NCAA Division II World Series.
But only West Chester stands in the way of a history-setting moment for the Rams.