Rams atop division, finally back home
Even with two games chipped off its North Division lead by Virginia-Wise, Shepherd still resides atop its six-team portion of the Mountain East Conference. The Rams bobbed to the top of the division with an eight-game winning streak that included consecutive doubleheader sweeps of Glenville, Charleston, West Virginia State and Concord.
After being swept themselves by Virginia-Wise, the Rams had a 9-3 conference record and were 14-10 overall. West Liberty resided in the second place in the North Division with a 7-4 conference record.
When Shepherd and South Division leader Concord met on March 30, both had 7-1 division records. The Rams pummeled the Mountain Lions, winning 13-2 and 18-9, in a twinbill played in Athens.
In Game One against Concord, it was multirun innings that moved the Rams along to an 11-run win. Five runs in the first, two more in the second, another four runs in the third and a two-run fourth were plenty of offense for right-hander Ryan Potts, who improved his record to 6-1 with six innings of work. Potts allowed six hits, fanned seven and walked only one.
Nick Atkinson and Brenton Doyle had three hits, with Doyle driving in four runs and Atkinson getting three RBIs. Christian Hamel, Reid Entsminger, Trenton Burgreen and Eric Sloper each had two hits. Chase Hoffman had Shepherd’s only home run.
Shepherd actually trailed 9-8 into the sixth inning of the nightcap. Even after scoring four times in the second, Shepherd was behind as the Mountain Lions chased starter Justin Smith.
In the sixth, the Rams exploded for eight runs to turn the game around. Hoffman’s three-run double was the key hit during the eight-run fireworks in the sixth.
Doyle and Hamel had Shepherd home runs, while Hamel drove in four runs with his two hits, Smith was 2-for-5, Eddie Nottingham went 3-for-5 and scored three runs, Hoffman was 2-for-5 with three RBIs and Sloper was 1-for-1 and drove in a pair of runs.
Mitchell Johnson replaced Smith and went four innings for the win that improved his record to 2-0. He allowed only three hits.
On March 31, the Rams’ offense was slowed considerably by Virginia-Wise’s Greg Duncan and R.J. Vanvickle in dropping a doubleheader to the Highland Cavaliers by scores of 3-1 and 6-2.
Atkinson had three of Shepherd’s seven hits in the opener, with Hoffman going 2-for-3 and Burgreen also going 2-for-3. Shepherd losing pitcher Colin Benner, now 0-4, had his best outing of the season in defeat. He hurt his cause with four wild pitches and three walks in his 5.2 innings on the mound.
In Wise’s 6-2 win in the nightcap, Shepherd managed only three hits off the complete-game effort of Vanvickle. The Highland Cavaliers scored four times off Shepherd starter Wes Martin in the second inning. Martin didn’t strike out a batter and allowed one walk in his 4.2 innings of work. The Rams didn’t have an extra base hit.
Tomorrow, Shepherd is at home for only the third date of the season, which has seen it play 24 times. Urbana (Ohio) of the North Division is at Fairfax Field for doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday, with the games starting at 1 p.m. on both dates.
All of Shepherd’s remaining 20 conference games will be against North Division rivals.