Winning 17 of 18, Rams test tournament waters
Playing at Monongalia County Ballpark just outside Morgantown, Shepherd completed its regular season with still another sweep of a doubleheader against Fairmont State.
The wins in both ends of the twinbill left the Rams with a 34-13 overall record and a 27-5 mark in the Mountain East Conference.
Fairmont State, which entered the weekend’s four games against Shepherd tied for second place in the league’s North Division, fell all the way to fourth place with its two losses Friday in Shepherdstown and its two defeats to the Rams in Morgantown.
Shepherd opened play in the double-elimination MEC tournament yesterday with a first-round game against West Virginia State. The other teams in the six-team tournament are West Liberty, Notre Dame, Charleston and Concord.
In winning 9-4 and 8-2 over the Fighting Falcons, Shepherd was again playing games after more movement from its original schedule. The Sunday games were originally scheduled for the Bridgeport Recreation Complex, but were moved to West Virginia University baseball’s home because of its artificial turf surface, which could better accommodate any rain forecast.
The Rams had played other games in Glenville on another artificial surface field when those games were scheduled elsewhere. A long string of games had been moved forward or played later than originally scheduled because of inclement weather. Playing times were also altered and several games that were weathered out were made up in an effort to play every scheduled game.
Fairmont needed to play the Sunday games because it was in fourth place in the North Division, and was going to miss the conference tournament because only three teams from each division qualify for that event.
The location change didn’t benefit Coach Phil Caruso’s Fighting Falcons.
A four-run first inning made an early splash for the Rams in the opener. A two-run third made the lead 6-0 before Fairmont rallied for four runs in its half of the third.
Shepherd sprinted ahead by five runs with a three-run fifth.
The Ram offense was helped by six hit batsmen and three stolen bases, which augmented the seven hits it managed.
Christian Hamel had two hits, Nick Atkinson drove in two runs and Reid Entsminger had two RBIs. Brian McCourt scored two runs.
Mitchell Johnson went four innings to receive credit for the win. He allowed four earned runs and seven of Fairmont’s nine hits. Johnson fanned four in moving his record to 4-2.
Colin Benner got a save when he finished the win with three innings, where he didn’t allow any runs while fanning five, walking two and spacing two hits.
Nick Atkinson led off the second game with a home run, but the Rams quickly fell behind, 2-1, when Fairmont scored twice in its half of the first.
Fairmont wouldn’t score again against Shepherd starter Adam Miller, who went six innings while yielding nine hits, no walks and fanning six. Miller improved his record to 4-2.
Shepherd led 3-2 when it scored once in the fifth and another four times in the sixth to establish a much more comfortable lead.
Brenton Doyle, who completed the regular season as the conference’s leading hitter at .434, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Entsminger was 2-for-3 and Giovanni Torres and Eric Sloper both had a hit, scored a run and drove in a run.
The conference tournament in Beckley will continue on through Sunday.