Hvozdovic clamps Concord as Rams split
Paul Hvozdovic has been Shepherd’s stopper for the past several seasons. The left-hander was matched with Concord’s equally unbeaten Ryan Weatherholtz last Saturday as the two pre-season team favorites in the Mountain East Conference met in a doubleheader at sun-filled Fairfax Field.
Concord came in unbeaten in its eight conference games. Shepherd entered with a 6-2 record.
Runs would probably be scarce, if seen at all.
Hvozdovic bested Weatherholtz. Shepherd grabbed a much-needed 3-1 win the opener, relying heavily on Hvozdovic’s route-going pitching to blunt any and all of Concord’s attempts to do much against him. All seven of Concord’s hits were singles. And Hvozdovic yielded only one walk while fanning four as he improved his record to 3-0.
Weatherholtz needed a shutout performance if he were going to better Hvozdovic. But Shepherd had clutch, RBI hits from Brandon Coffey, Michael Lott and Kyle Porter to get just enough runs to deal Concord its first conference loss.
The Rams had only four hits, but they stranded only three runners in winning.
Old-time baseball minds always look to see how a team responds when an opponent scores important runs against it.
Shepherd responded quickly and definitively when Concord managed its only run off Hvozdovic to get even at 1-1 in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Rams scored twice when Lott and Porter produced RBIs.
Hvozdovic blanked the Mountain Lions in the last two innings to cement the important win.
Shepherd did not commit an error behind the strike-throwing effort of their stopper.
Saturday’s nightcap became a one-run Concord win when the Rams several times failed to deliver a clutch hit or even a sacrifice fly while making four physical errors and ending the 6-5 loss on a mental error that resulted in a game-ending double play that left them with a distasteful split after riding Hvozdovic’s first-game pitching.
After scoring twice in the first inning (and still leaving two runners stranded), Shepherd loaded the bases with no outs in the second. But Porter struck out and Spencer Wolfe grounded into a 5-2-3 double play to squash the threat.
Again in the third, the Rams had the bases loaded and no outs. They did get one run when Bryce Shemer was out on an infield roller. But when T.J. Weisenburg fanned and Lott grounded out to first there was only one run to show for the four baserunners the inning produced. The Rams had left seven runners on base in the first three innings.
Concord had sent 10 men to the plate in the second, scoring five times when the Rams committed two errors, one on a potential double play grounder to second. Two of the five runs were earned.
Shepherd starter Jamie Driver pushed on and kept Concord scoreless in the next two innings.
Tim Leather, a South Hagerstown High grad, was brought on to pitch for the Mountain Lions in the third.
Leather got credit for the win when he dashed Shepherd’s offense in his three-plus innings of three-hit, four-strikeout pitching. Only Matt Wilson solved Leather with a solo homer that brought the Rams to within one run of the Concord lead.
Trailing 6-4 in the last of the seventh, the Rams finally reached Leather for Wolfe’s line-drive double and Wilson’s single to left that plated Wolfe, who had moved to third on a wild pitch.
There were no outs. Leather was relieved by Chris Baker. Wilson, stationed on first, represented the tying run.
Ryan Messina lined out to right. Jacob Carney faced Baker. He sent a line drive to the third basemen . . . and when Wilson broke for second the game was suddenly ended in Concord’s favor with the Shepherd runner being doubled off first.
Shepherd was still two games behind the Mountain Lions in the Mountain East standings.
Concord had won the nightcap with only five hits, but enough unearned runs and Shepherd’s lack of a vital bases loaded hit to gain a split of the two well-attended games.