Shepherd stays atop division, takes Urbana series
Being a weather profit was as important to Shepherd as was taking three games of a rescheduled four-game series with conference rival Urbana. The pair of doubleheaders were moved forward to last Thursday and Friday from their original dates of April 7 and 8.
Even with their series win, the Rams wasted one of the school’s all-time best pitching performances. Ryan Potts, who came into the first game Thursday with a 6-1 record, went 10 shutout innings with 14 strikeouts against the Blue Knights, but his teammates could never score off the combined pitching of Vitor Takahara (seven shutout innings) and Robbie Guerrero (four scoreless innings). When Potts was replaced to begin the Urbana 11th, the Rams fell, 2-0, as Zach Tanner hit a two-run homer off Mitchell Johnson.
Shepherd managed only five hits in its 11 turns. Takahura and Guerrero combined for nine strikeouts. Brenton Doyle, who improved his batting average to .371 in the series, was 2-for-5 for the run-hungry Rams.
In Thursday’s nightcap, the Rams had a six-run third and stole seven bases in besting the Blue Knights, 12-5, with Justin Smith allowing two runs in his six innings of work. Nick Atkinson stole three bases, Doyle had a pair and Eric Sloper also stole two bases.
Eddie Nottingham hit two home runs and drove in four runs. Christan Hamel homered and had four RBIs. Doyle was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, Atkinson scored three runs and Chase Hoffman scored twice. Smith improved his record to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 6.82.
On Friday, the Rams greeted the 65-degree temperature by beating the Blue Knights, 17-4 and 9-2, to stay atop the North Division of the conference with a 12-4 league record. Second-place West Liberty was 7-5 going into the weekend.
Freshman Adam Miller was 2-2 after going five innings and allowing only one earned run in the 17-4 win. Doyle homered twice and went 4-for-5 with six RBIs and three runs scored. Brian McCourt had a home run and drove in three runs, while Hamel also homered and had two RBIs. Nottingham was 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, and pinch-hitter Daniel Keer had his first home run of the season.
Shepherd had a four-run first, eight-run third and five-run sixth in scorching the Blue Knights. Right-hander Colin Benner won his first game of the 28-game season in the nightcap. He went four innings, allowed four hits and two earned runs while walking only one. Wes Martin got his first save of the season when he pitched the last three innings of the 9-2 victory.
McCourt homered again; Hoffman was 2-for-3 with three RBIs on his home run and Nottingham scored two runs.
Shepherd was scheduled to play at Shippensburg on Tuesday and carried a 17-11 record into that non-conference game. The Rams are set to face division rival Wheeling Jesuit in consecutive doubleheaders this Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. at friendly Fairfax Field.
Smith paces the Ram batsmen with his .392 batting average. After Doyle’s .371 average comes Hamel at .367, Atkinson at .355 and Nottingham at a .333 clip.
Shepherd had skirted the worst of the weather and moved games 48 hours ahead to stop Urbana three times in the four games played.