Win streak ends but Rams still atop league
With pitcher Ryan Pansch dominating visiting Notre Dame, Shepherd moved its mid-season winning streak to 16 games. But then some of the same reasons the Rams had been felling Mountain East Conference teams like Washington state fir trees jumped into the Shepherd dugout and the Falcons stopped all the winning with a 9-4 win of their own in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Pansch retired the first 10 batters he saw — five by strikeouts — as the Rams struck quickly for an eight-run lead behind a grand slam homer from Spencer Wolfe, a solo drive from Jacob Carney and Kyle Porter’s two-run shot in the first inning.
In his five innings of mound duty, Pansch yielded only four hits and no walks before being removed with an an 8-1 lead.
As has been the case too often this season, the beleaguered Shepherd bullpen staggered and fell. And almost gave away the seven runs before the last Falcon batter was retired in the seventh. Shepherd had won by a too-slender 8-7 count when Notre Dame left the tying run aboard against newly-activated Sam Crater.
It was Brian Martin who had squandered four of the hard-earned runs in his one inning, showing why he had pitched only 3.2 innings before Sunday’s meltdown.
The testy win in Sunday’s opener gave Shepherd the first three games of the hurried four-game weekend set.
Pansch had been walk-free and mostly overpowering. Shepherd had cranked out 11 hits, including the three home runs that came on a warm afternoon where the ball was finally carrying at friendly Fairfax Field.
In finally losing for the first time since mid-March, Shepherd had to endure the same acrid taste of defeat every one of its Mountain East foes had been subjected to when seeing the Rams.
The 9-4 loss was actually “A game within the game.”
Shepherd generally thrives with its four left-handed batters damaging opponent’s pitching.
Not on Sunday.
Notre Dame left-hander Simon Davis shrunk Shepherd’s left-handed batters to dust. Michael Lott, Porter, Carney and Bryce Shemer were a combined 0-for-12 against the strike-throwing Falcon.
In going 6.2 innings, Davis walked but three and hit two men with pitches, but with the four left-handed batters going 0-for-12 between them the Rams needed a lot more gifts than they received.
Rams’ pitchers Mac West and Austin Hale were constantly delivering their pitchers above the waist. And they could not get strikeouts. Strikeouts are necessary when dealing with Shepherd’s often shaky defense. But of the first 35 batters West and Hale saw they could only fan two of them. The Rams committed three errors.
Wolfe was much of Shepherd’s too-little offense, clubbing two more home runs on the warm, baseball-like afternoon.
The only other loud moment the Rams had was when Ryan Messina clouted a solo homer.
Shepherd’s winning path had been halted at 16 straight wins.
But there had been three wins in four weekend games against the Falcons.
And the Rams’ league lead was still comfortable over its nearest competitors, Concord and Urbana.