Long balls, stellar pitching carry Rams past Fairmont
Five home runs and complete-game pitching from Ryan Potts and Logan Manz were Shepherd’s weapons of choice last Friday at Fairfax Field, when the Rams defeated Fairmont State, 6-3 and 3-2, in a doubleheader played with uncommon intensity and get-your-attention, keep-your-attention electricity.
In the Potts-pitched opener, the lean right-hander struck out 12 Falcons, including at least one victim in all seven innings. The Mountain East Conference’s probable Pitcher of the Year improved his already impressive record to 9-1. The Falcons managed seven hits, including solo home runs from Tyler Hill and Ben Myers.
Shepherd’s three first-game home runs came from Chase Hoffman, Brenton Doyle and Nick Atkinson.
After Myers’ home run tied the count at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, Shepherd quickly countered with solo drives from Atkinson and Doyle, to move ahead 5-3.
Shepherd-designated hitter Brian McCourt pushed the lead to 6-3 in the sixth when he walked with Hoffman already at first base and no outs. Trenton Burgreen bunted into an easy force play at third, with McCourt reaching second. Two wild pitches by Ryan French moved McCourt to third and allowed him to score.
Potts had fanned two in the fourth, struck out the side in the fifth and fanned two more in the sixth.
Fairmont batted in the seventh, trailing by three runs. When Jacob Goodnight struck out for the third consecutive time, there were two outs and nobody was on base. But Myers walked on a 3-2 pitch and Greg Yaksich singled to bring the tying run to the plate.
After a passed ball moved the runners along to second and third, Potts struck out Austin Norman to end the budding drama.
Michael Stout, who entered the nightcap with an 8-2 record, faced newly trusted Shepherd left-hander Manz in what would prove once again to have a home run/pitcher’s duel theme.
Manz only became an integral part of Shepherd’s pitching staff on April 10, when he worked well in the cold and wind at Shippensburg in a non-conference game. He came in with a 2-0 record and proved to be a mostly unsolvable puzzle to the Fairmont order.
Atkinson took Stout’s first pitch over the center field fence and, three batters later, Justin Smith drilled a home run toward right-center, which gave Manz a quick 2-0 lead.
Hill’s solo homer got one run back for Stout, and Tyler Skidmore scored when his slide dislodged the baseball from catcher Christian Hamel’s glove.
Still even at 2-2 into the sixth, the Rams edged ahead when Hamel singled to center and got to second when Norman kicked the baseball in center field. Smith’s line drive right at second baseman Darrin Zombro was dropped for an error, with Hamel easing into third on the miscue.
After Eddie Nottingham popped out to first, Chase Hoffman lifted a long sacrifice to right that plated pinch runner Reid Entsminger. Shepherd led 3-2 with only one inning left.
In the seventh, Jordan Sanders was held to a single on his shot off the fence in left. Manz fanned Joseph LaRocca, but walked pinch-hitter Brooks Carr on a 3-2 pitch to put the go-ahead run at first.
Myers grounded out to second as the two runners moved up a base to second and third.
Yaksich was Manz’s final impediment to notching a complete-game and giving Shepherd a sweep of the doubleheader. Manz got Yaksich swinging.
Fairmont State had managed five hits off Manz, who fanned four and walked only two in his route-going performance.
Complete games. Home runs. Two wins. A 32-13 overall record with a 25-5 conference mark were Shepherd’s most important statistics.