Pitching, aggressive nature help Rams sweep again
Effective starting pitching and an aggressive approach with its hitting and baserunning helped Shepherd sweep another Mountain East Conference doubleheader, this time with 8-1 and 9-4 wins over Notre Dame (Ohio) giving the Rams a burgeoning 15-game winning streak.
The win-streak is the longest in school history and boosted Shepherd’s league record to 22-4 and overall mark to 24-7 (with the highest winning percentage in all of the Atlantic Region).
Unbeaten senior left-hander Paul Hvozdovic won the 8-1 opener because he did not walk a batter. His 10 strikeouts in the complete game effort effectively kept the Rams from making more than the three errors they did commit. Hvozdovic went to 7-0 with his in-command eight-hitter.
The heart of the Notre Dame lineup — batters 3, 4 and 5 had combined for six at-bats through the first five innings and had struck out all six times.
In its six offensive turns, the Rams had 20 baserunners — six on hit batsmen, three on walks and there were four Notre Dame errors.
Bryce Shemer was a runner four times. Matt Wilson was hit three times by Notre Dame pitching. Spencer Wolfe was on base four times.
A four-run second inning was keyed by a two-run double from Shemer and Wolfe’s infield dribbler that ended up scoring two more runs when a throw went wide of first base.
In the more suspenseful nightcap, Shepherd’s Jamie Driver zealously protected the three runs he received in the first inning. But the second game was more tense and could have been tipped in Notre Dame’s favor if not for a five-run Shepherd rally in the sixth.
Driver and the Rams clung to a 3-0 lead before T.J. Lett’s two-run triple brought the Falcons to within a run at 3-2. Notre Dame got a single run again in the fourth and it became a 3-3 game.
Brandon Coffey’s double and a sacrifice fly from Shemer returned Shepherd to a 4-3 lead after four.
It was still a one-run game until Shepherd’s turn in the sixth.
The Rams got hits from Jacob Carney and Coffey and walk to Shemer to load the bases with one out. Michael Lott hammered a two-run single to right with Kyle Porter and Wolfe following suit with hits and the final result was a five-run outburst that sealed the verdict in Driver’s favor.
Driver did not allow an earned run but was buffeted by the three errors made around him. Driver even fumbled a grounder himself.
He allowed just three hits and one walk while fanning three in his six innings.
Shepherd’s 15 baserunners were winnowed in number because of out-causing base running that cost them three unnecessary outs.
Wolfe reached base three times. Lott, Carney, Coffey and Ryan Messina all had two hits.
The beating of Notre Dame in both games all but mathematically eliminated the Falcons from any chance of winning the regular season title. And the pair of wins kept the Rams three games in front of second-place Concord.
Fifteen in a row.
A school record.
Hvozdovic and Driver with a combined pitching record of 13-1.