Shepherd extends win streak to nine games
After facing 11 batters in the cold and wind on Thursday, unbeaten Shepherd left-hander Paul Hvozdovic completely blanketed the Wheeling Jesuit lineup last Saturday in recording a two-hit, 11-strikeout shutout win over the Cardinals.
Coming back on one day’s rest, Hvozdovic overpowered the overmatched Cardinal lineup with his two-pitch assortment of strikes. He had already fanned 10 after only five innings of strike-throwing pitching.
Shepherd would dismiss the Cardinals, 11-0, and it did much of its scoring damage with the walks, hit batsmen and the errors Wheeling Jesuit often committed. The Rams had 14 runners that reached safely without getting a base hit.
Hvozdovic did not allow a hit after the second. And in his last five innings of complete game work, permitted only one baserunner and that came on an infield error.
The Rams prospered in the early innings, scoring three times with the aid of three walks and two costly Cardinal errors. Hvozdovic had a 3-0 lead to protect after only three innings. And protect it he did in improving his record to 5-0, helping himself considerably by facing 25 batters and never issuing a walk.
Of Shepherd’s nine starters, only Bryce Shemer did not have an RBI. One oddity concerning Shepherd’s run production saw four runs score on sacrifice flies as the Rams ran at will against the weak throwing arms of the Wheeling Jesuit left fielder and right fielder.
Kyle Porter had three of Shepherd’s seven hits, including a leadoff homer in the fifth. Spencer Wolfe and Ryan Messina both drove in two runs.
The Rams had 21 baserunners in their six turns and mixed together lethal portions of strike-throwing pitching and opportunistic offense to stun the third-place team in the Mountain East Conference. The league-leading Rams won for the eighth straight time.
Later, in a a second game played on Saturday, the Rams extended their winning streak to nine games by stepping around their own eight errors to make a six-run lead hold up for an 8-5 win over the same hit-poor Cardinals.
As the infield surface grew increasingly wet and heavy, fielders in the second game had problems catching ground balls and equal trouble throwing with accuracy. Shepherd made eight errors. And still won, completing the important sweep of the Cardinals.
How could a team overcome that many errors in a seven-inning game? Because the Rams received six walks, had four batters hit by errant Cardinal pitchers, used three Wheeling Jesuit errors and managed 17 baserunners in once holding an 8-2 lead.
Tall right-hander Jamie Driver, who himself had faced 14 batters when the Rams worked some cold-weather magic to win a conference doubleheader from West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon on Thursday, maintained his equilibrium in his five innings because he issued no walks and hit only one batter.
Matt Wilson’s crucial three-run triple in the third was quickly followed by Ryan Messina’s 210-foot sacrifice fly to right that gave Driver a 4-1 lead.
Shepherd had only Wilson’s critical hit through four innings.
Then in the Rams’ fifth, two walks, a hit batsman and singles by Wilson and Jacob Carney helped shove across another two runs. Shepherd advanced its lead to 8-2 with two runs gleaned from two more walks, another hit batsman and Michael Lott’s inning-leading double.
Driver would allow only five hits in his five innings of three-strikeout pitching. His win was his fourth of the season.
The leaky sweep of the Cardinals moved Shepherd’s conference record to 16-4 and overall mark to 18-7 as it moves ahead in the Atlantic Region rankings.
A scheduled Sunday doubleheader at Fairfax Field against the same Cardinals was cancelled because of the rain, snow and wet grounds. Trying to keep its winning streak in motion, Shepherd hits the road this weekend for conference doubleheaders against Glenville on both Saturday and Sunday.