Shepherd increases lead to three games
After Shepherd had used an RBI double from leading hitter Spencer Wolfe to edge West Virginia Wesleyan, 4-3, in the opener of a conference doubleheader, second-game pitcher Ryan Pansch fanned the first five batters he faced, leading the Rams to a more comfortable 6-0 win in the nightcap as they swept the two games played at chilled Fairfax Field on Wednesday.
The two victories made it 18 wins in the last 19 games for the Rams and increased their Mountain East Conference lead to three games over second-place Concord.
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, Shepherd improved its league record to 25-5 and overall mark to 27-8.
In Wednesday’s opener, it was a three-run first inning and then Wolfe’s two-out, RBI double in the fifth to snap a 3-3 tie that were the main ingredients in the Rams’ one-run win. Wolfe had also driven in a run in the first and was 2-for-2 in the game.
It was anything but easy for starting pitcher Austin Hale, who went five innings and got credit for the win. Hale’s record went to 6-1 and he was touched for only three hits. But his three walks and one hit batsman created scoring chances for the Bobcats. Hale only had one strikeout.
Tyler Thomas and Sam Crater were able to retire the Bobcats in order in the sixth and seventh. Crater got credit for his third save of the season.
Pansch’s fastball was too much for the Bobcats as he once fanned the side on just nine pitches. With four conference games just ahead, he was limited to four dominant innings, leaving with 5-0 lead after notching eight strikeouts of the 12 outs he recorded.
The Bobcats had two hits against Pansch in the third, but on two occasions he got outs after falling behind with 3-0 counts.
Paul Hvozdovic (one inning) and Mac West (two scoreless innings) finished for the first-place Rams.
After Kyle Porter’s two-out RBI hit gave Pansch a 1-0 lead in the third, Shepherd eased away with a four-run outburst in its next turn.
It took five hits and two RBIs from Jacob Carney to score the four runs because the Bobcats were not committing errors or issuing walks in the multi-run inning.
Pansch improved his record to 4-3. And Shepherd had beaten the Bobcats in all four games the teams had played.
Carney went 4-for-5 on his productive afternoon and Wolfe was 3-for-7 in his two games.
Before going to the first Mountain East Conference tournament beginning on May 8 in Beckley, the Rams first negotiated four games at home against West Liberty and then face consecutive, four-game weekend series on the road at third-place Urbana and Fairmont State.
Farther down the trail for the Rams could be the Atlantic Region tournament where six NCAA Division II teams are invited. After trimming the Bobcats, the Rams have highest winning percentage of all the teams in the Atlantic Region.