Second-line pitchers get best of Red Raiders
It was another Shepherd midweek game against non-conference rival Shippensburg. Three weeks earlier, the two teams had met on a frigid afternoon in Shippensburg, with the Red Raiders winning a predictably messy game 12-11. This time, the temperature was 42 degrees warmer. This time, balls flew further through the air than normal.
The Rams offered four home runs, had lusty innings with eight runs, five runs and four runs, and drubbed the Red Raiders, 20-4.
Shepherd’s five pitchers easily outdueled Shippensburg’s five pitchers as both teams saved their best hurlers for important conference weekends.
There were 16 Shepherd hits, 14 walks or hit batsmen, four Red Raider errors, four Shippensburg wild pitches or passed balls and a run-producing 32 base runners.
With its 20 runs, the Rams showed Brian McCourt with a grand slam homer and five RBIs, Eric Sloper with a three-run homer and four RBIs, Nate Atkinson with a homer and three RBIs and Eddie Nottingham with three RBIs. Brenton Doyle landed the other Shepherd home run and was 4-for-6.
Shippensburg saved its more effective pitchers for a pair of doubleheaders against PSAC opponent Kutztown, a team that was 1.5 games ahead of it in the conference standings. The Red Raiders had to beat Kutztown at least three times to make the conference tournament field.
Shepherd did much the same with its staff of pitchers, with conference foe Fairmont State awaiting a Friday doubleheader at Fairfax Field and a Sunday twinbill scheduled with the Falcons on the road.
Red Raider freshman Austin Bulman crashed a three-run homer in the second off Mitchell Johnson for most of the visitors’ offense.
The win was Shepherd’s 30th of the season, keeping the Rams moving upward from the 1-5 start they got through.
This week, the Rams will be in Beckley for the conference tournament, an event whose champion qualifies for the NCAA’s postseason tournament, where eight teams come together for the Division II Atlantic Regional – a double-elimination tournament whose survivor moves along to the College World Series. Shepherd could claim an at-large bid to the Atlantic Regional should it fail to win the conference tournament.