Potts wins again for Shepherd
Last Saturday, the sun shone brightly at Shepherd’s Fairfax Field. And two games of college baseball could be measured by the players’ abilities and not tarnished by a never-hiding wind and a 37-degree temperature like it was the previous day, when the Rams defeated Queens College (NY), 4-1, behind Ryan Potts’ pitching.
Saturday’s doubleheader was split, with Queens winning the lengthy, error-strewn opener, 13-7, and the Rams getting a complete-game pitching effort from Justin Smith to post a 4-1 win in the quickly played nightcap.
Potts improved his early-season record to 3-1 with seven innings of work on a day when only kite-flying or an indoor sport were suitable. With Shepherd missing all of its four-man starting rotation from its 2017 conference-champion team, Potts has become vital to any chances of repeating last season’s accomplishments.
Shepherd’s schedule calls for four weekend starters when conference play begins, and the Rams play consecutive doubleheaders on Saturdays and Sundays.
Potts gives coach Matt McCarty one ace to throw at the other 11 teams in the Mountain East Conference. Even with a promising lineup of hitters, the Rams will need other pitchers to ward off the big innings sure to come in conference games.
Queens had a pleasurable opener against Shepherd starter Colin Benner (0-2), Mitchell Johnson and Adam Miller, gleaning 15 hits, four walks and two hit batsmen off the combined innings of the Shepherd threesome. The Rams were guilty of five errors as the Knights had 24 base runners in their seven turns.
With the Knights’ lead at only 9-7, Miller surrendered a grand slam homer to Andrew Navarez in the seventh inning to blot Shepherd’s comeback moves.
Most of Shepherd’s 10 hits came from Brenton Doyle (three) and Smith (two), with Christian Hamel poking a two-run home run in the middle innings. The Rams managed 19 base runners themselves, but stranded an eye-opening 12 of them.
In Shepherd’s second-game win, Smith effectively scattered five hits, but did walk five including the bases loaded in the fourth. All of the Queens hits were singles and none of the balls the Knights put in play were hard-hit. But Smith fanned only two, and that could be an omen of things to come when he pitches, if afternoons with 60-degree temperatures ever arrive.
Shepherd’s runs came when a routine fly to left was dropped for a glaring two-run error and Trenton Burgreen and Eric Sloper had singles in the fourth that moved the lead to 4-0. Doyle had two more hits in the winning nightcap.
Conference play for the Rams, now 5-7 overall, begins this weekend with trips to West Virginia Wesleyan and Glenville for back-to-back doubleheaders.
Potts will be one of the starters. And Benner in another game. And then come more new faces that need to get outs without yielding too many hits, walks, hit batsmen and earned runs.