Familiar pitchers return to Shepherd
SHEPHERDSTOWN — There is a considerably different look to college baseball this season. Rosters can be larger, and many leagues have down-sized the number of games schools can play.
At Shepherd, there is a considerable group of holdovers from the 2020 season that was halted in early March. And there are an additional 17 new players being added to the competition for starting spots.
The roster actually had 44 players, when practice began for what is hoped to be a full spring of baseball.
Coach Matt McCarty begins his ninth season with a list of pitchers who were with him in the virus-shortened 2020 season.
Shepherd won eight of its last nine games, before it was informed the season was being halted, just as its conference games came to the calendar. The skein of winning left the Rams with an 11-7 record to contemplate.
The lengthy list of returning pitchers is led by Mitchell Wilson, Trevor Sprinkle, Steve Bowley, Ryan Marketell, Eric O’Brien, Adam Miller, Nick Trabacchi and Wes Martin. Many of them are now listed as graduate students.
Even with the large group of returning pitchers, any incoming freshman could easily gain enough attention to move into the starting rotation.
Infielders Dalton Stewart, Joey Schwartz and Joey Goldsmith were all starters last season. Also returning are Brennan Holmes, Easy Goita and Connor Dewees.
An opening in the outfield exists beside .300-plus hitter Jared Carr. Daniel Keer will play, but might be the designated hitter again. Trustin Riley and Colton Henson got some playing time a year ago.
Zach Doss had a lock on the catching post in 2020, but could be employed somewhere else this season.
All but one of the 17 new players are freshmen. Almost surely some will emerge as useful and productive hitters.
The PSAC is one of the most competitive NCAA Division II conferences in the country.
Shepherd resides in the nine-school East Division of the league, where nationally-ranked East Stroudsburg, Millersville and West Chester generally are in control. Also in the division are Kutztown, Lock Haven, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg and Mansfield.
The Rams don’t play any of the West Division teams. The West has Seton Hill, Slippery Rock, Pitt-Johnstown, California, Mercyhurst, Indiana, Gannon and Clarion.
Because of the coronavirus, the schedule has been slightly shortened. Shepherd’s non-conference slate has only Francis Marion and UNC-Pembroke in the South and Alderson-Broaddus at home.
Each of the other eight schools in the PSAC East is to be played three times, giving the 2021 Rams a total of 24 conference games.
The season will carry later into May than usual, which could mean more valued baseball weather than in the past months of February and March at Fairfax Field.
Carr could be an All-America candidate, and Stewart and Doss could be mentioned on all-conference teams.
The PSAC has schools with real baseball traditions, and often a rich array of pitchers. West Chester won the national championship not too many years ago.
After the disastrous virus from 2020, just playing a full schedule would be a cherished ending to the spring of 2021.