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Add Hepple to Shepherd’s already dangerous lineup

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

Add another dangerous hitter to Shepherd’s already imposing lineup.

Jason Hepple received only his third and fourth starts of the 21-game season, but he went 4-for-6 with four line drive singles as the Rams swept a second straight doubleheader from visiting West Virginia State, stopping the Yellow Jackets, 7-4 and 5-3 in Mountain East Conference games at sun-drenched Fairfax Field.

Hepple was inserted into the Shepherd lineup as the catcher in both games. Spencer Wolfe, who had done nearly all the catching this season, was moved to third base.

With Hepple adding his two hits to what became a 13-hit Shepherd offense, the Rams literally hit their way past the Yellow Jackets in winning the opener by three runs. The Rams actually sent 31 batters to the plate and had 19 of them reach base.

Matt Wilson was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. Kyle Porter was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Ryan Messina had a 2-for-2 afternoon and was on base in all of his three at-bats.

Michael Lott went 2-for-4 and reached safely three times. Wolfe was on base in all three of his turns. And Hepple added his line drive spice to the already troublesome Shepherd batting order.

Mac West gave the Rams three scoreless, get-out-of-constant-trouble innings and was given a 3-0 lead even though the Rams hit into a triple play to end a budding, first inning threat.

West faced 16 men in his three innings. No fewer than eight of them reached base. But West wasn’t scored on because Lott made an outstanding diving catch with the bases loaded to end the first, and a bases loaded double play ended the third.

Tyler Thomas inherited a 3-0 lead when he took over to begin the fourth. Thomas lasted only five batters before needing help from Bryan DiRosario. DiRosario got out of the two-run fourth by retiring the two men he faced. And before the Yellow Jackets could get a runner against him, he had retired six straight men.

The Rams built a 7-2 lead with a four-run fourth that included RBI hits from Porter, Wilson and Messina.

DiRosario took a five-run lead into the seventh, but yielded four hits and two earned runs while being helped along by a 6-4-3 double play that came after three consecutive Yellow Jacket singles. The Yellow Jackets were 6-for-16 against DiRosario, who received credit for the win.

Only two of Shepherd’s runs were earned. West Virginia State stranded 12 runners in its seven turns.

Hepple gave the Rams another 2-for-3 game in the edgy win in the opener.

Austin Hale was Shepherd’s in-control starting pitcher in the second game. Of the 24 batters Hale would face in his six innings of work, he didn’t walk anybody and only hit the game’s leadoff batter.

Hale’s control and hasty style of wasting no time between pitches served him well. He allowed only four singles in his six-inning stint and left only after Shepherd had a 5-1 lead.

Wilson clubbed a two-run home run in the first and Wolfe’s sacrifice fly in the second moved Shepherd’s lead to 3-0.

After the Yellow Jackets got a run in the third, the Rams used another Wolfe RBI and an infield error to move ahead, 5-1.

When Brian Martin replaced Hale to begin the seventh, the game was nearly tied or lost because the right-hander yielded solid hits to four of the six batters he saw.

Martin left after the score moved to 5-3 and there were enemy runners on first and third. Ryan Pansch replaced Martin. Pansch’s first pitch hit 10 feet in front of the plate and allowed the tying run to reach second base.

Jack Hudson then unloaded a screaming line drive right at shortstop T.J.Weisenburg. Weisenburg reached high over his head to snare the liner . . . and Shepherd had a sweep of Saturday’s games, as well as a 4-0 sweep of the four conference games played in a two-day period.

Hepple had been inserted into Shepherd’s lineup. And he was batting .461 after Shepherd had moved into first place in the 12-school conference with a 12-4 league record.