Record at 14-8, softball Rams chase playoff berth
After being invited to the NCAA regional softball playoffs a year ago, Shepherd could repeat that feat if it finds enough wins from now until the Mountain East Conference season winds down and the league holds its annual tournament.
The Rams were 14-8 coming into this week’s games. Those wins and losses included a 6-4 mark in the North Division of the Mountain East Conference.
Shepherd’s 6-4 league showing had it two games behind Fairmont’s 8-2 record and tied with Wheeling Jesuit’s 6-4 record. In its early-season games versus nonconference teams, the Rams saw a number of teams from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Shepherd defeated Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, Indiana, Edinboro and Gannon from the PSAC while being swept in two games versus Millersville.
Once the conference schedule began, there were doubleheader sweeps of both Glenville and Urbana and doubleheader splits with South Division leader West Virginia Wesleyan and Wheeling Jesuit. The Rams were swept by Notre Dame (Ohio).
Cheyenne Van Pelt has a 3-0 record and fellow pitchers Kaitlin Munda (3-4) and Lori Sturgill (7-3) have the most starts of anybody on the staff.
The Rams had a .292 team batting average and had posted wins in a number of low-run, one-run games, which have become necessary, because as a team there have been only five home runs. Two of the scattered high-scoring games were a 12-10 loss to Millersville and an 11-10 loss to the same Marauders team.
The versatile Sturgill has started only 13 of the 24 games, but has batted .438 in addition to her pitching duties. Kaitlyn Konopka has had a good season so far with a .351 batting average. Rachel Taylor shows a .344 average and Leann Brown is hitting .320.
Four more Ram regulars – Molly Staley (.318), Jessica Robinson (.302), Allison Baker (.297 in 16 starts) and Morgan Cox (.284) – have been contributing noticeable offense during the 24 games played to date.
Shepherd’s record against teams from the PSAC should help when at-large teams are considered for berths in the upcoming NCAA Division II regional tournament. The PSAC is one of the leagues in the same region as Shepherd.
With its six players showing .300-plus batting averages, the Rams have fielded a lineup that doesn’t need quality offensive games from just one or two hitters. And it has more than just two pitchers for doubleheaders.
The winner of the Mountain East Conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the Regional. Shepherd received an at-large bid in 2017 since it didn’t win the MEC tournament.