Rams take to diamond on last day of January
SHEPHERDSTOWN — It’s back to UNC Pembroke and then South Carolina-Aiken for the Shepherd baseball team when the Rams open their baseball season on Jan. 31.
Jan. 31? That’s it for the Rams, who will play their first season in the talented Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2020.
Shepherd has posted 30-plus wins in recent seasons and conference championships when plowing through the MEC. And for three straight years the Rams were invited to the NCAA Division II postseason (2016-2018).
Even with a potent lineup last season, Shepherd could not win the MEC tournament and missed the postseason. And gone from that team are Brenton Doyle (a fourth round draft choice of Colorado in June, 2019), Eddie Nottingham, Justin Smith, Syeed Mahdi, Nick Atkinson, Giovanni Torres and Brian McCourt. Christian Hamel was another regular on that team and had remaining eligibility, but Hamel did not return. Workhorse pitcher Ryan Potts was also a senior in 2019.
The major 2019 contributors back for the first season in the PSAC are outfielders Jared Carr and Daniel Keer and infielders Dalton Stewart and Trenton Burgreen.
There are also six pitchers returning and most made numerous starts. Adam Miller, Mitchell Wilson, Steve Bowley, Ryan Marketell, Eric O’Brien and Wes Martin provided the Rams with most of the innings Potts didn’t receive.
Stepping into the PSAC and leaving behind West Virginia Wesleyan, Wheeling, West Liberty, Urbana, Glenville and Concord will show the Rams a higher caliber of baseball. Shepherd is stationed in the East Division of the two-division league. There are nine schools in the East Division and Shepherd has a total of 24 games scheduled against that group.
Last season, Millersville went 38-16, West Chester was 31-16, Bloomsburg completed its season with a 35-16 record and East Stroudsburg went 31-19.
Lock Haven, Shippensburg, Kutztown and Mansfield all suffered through losing seasons.
There are no games against the West Division teams that count in the conference standings, although the Rams will face Mercyhurst and California in early games in Wilson, NC.
As has been the Shepherd plan under Coach Matt McCarty, there will be another roster filled with new faces this year. First-year infielders dotting the roster are Easy Goita (CCBC), Joey Goldsmith (Pitt CC), Joey Schwartz (Western Kentucky), Damond Nixon (Florence-Darlington Tech) and Cole Daugherty (Red Lion High in Pennsylvania).
The newest catchers and outfielders are Trustin Riley (Tampa), Kaden Warren (Hutchinson CC in Kansas), Zack Doss (Maryland-College Park), Nate Hodgkinson (Red Lion High School) and Colton Hensen (Alderson-Broaddus).
Brought in to take possible starting pitching roles are Nick Trabacchi (UMBC), Cole Dunn (Radford), and Trevor Sprinkle (UNC Pembroke). The freshmen pitching candidates include Tanner Dixon (Frederick, Md.), Brady Weaver (Hedgesville), Jordan Trunnell (Jefferson) and Hodgkinson.
Trabacchi started 12 games for UMBC, Dunn was given five starts at Radford and Sprinkle made seven appearances at UNC Pembroke.
After games at UNC Pembroke, USC-Aiken and Virginia State, the Rams have a neutral site game versus Lincoln before seeing Alderson-Broaddus at Fairfax Field on Feb. 22 and 23.
Quality hitters have to be found. And quickly. Pitching often dominates in the PSAC and East Division members Millersville, West Chester, Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg will have talented starters.
Jan. 31 is almost here. And Shepherd baseball will feature many first-year players and some PSAC teams that don’t lose too often.