Despite tournament tumble, Rams invited to Regional
In the days before it traveled to Beckley for the Mountain East baseball tournament, Shepherd had a handful of its players, as well as its coach, given recognition by the first-year conference.
The Rams had four players named to the All-Conference first team. Catcher Spencer Wolfe, second baseman Jacob Carney, outfielder Michael Lott and the league’s Pitcher of the Year, Paul Hvozdovic, were all given first-team recognition.
Named to the second-team were outfielders Matt Wilson and Kyle Porter and designated hitter, Ryan Messina.
Both Ryan Pansch and Jamie Driver were placed on the honorable mention list as starting pitchers.
Second-year coach Matt McCarty was selected as the Coach of the Year.
Shepherd was the Mountain East regular season champion with its 35-7 league record.
Entering the six-team, double elimination tournament in Beckley, Shepherd was the No. 1 ranked team in the Atlantic Region.
Since the Mountain East Conference was in its first year of existence, the league did not receive an automatic bid to the Atlantic Region tournament. For Shepherd, it was a good thing that was the case.
The Rams did not win the league’s initial tournament.
In fact, they won their first game, a 15-3 dousing of sixth-seeded West Liberty, but then lost a 12-7 decision to Urbana and were eliminated from the tournament when beaten, 5-1, by Concord. After the tournament firing was completed, Shepherd was left with a 38-12 overall record. Outfielder Matt Wilson was injured in the first inning of the first game and missed the rest of the tournament.
West Virginia State and retiring coach Cal Bailey won the four-day tournament.
However, the Yellow Jackets finished with a 34-17 overall record.
And Shepherd owned a 4-0 regular season record against Bailey’s Yellow Jackets.
Concord went 2-2 in the Beckley event and completed a season with a 38-16 overall record — four more losses than Shepherd had. The Mountain Lions were 3-2 against Shepherd in the five games played between the two teams.
The NCAA national tournament selection committee took Shepherd instead of the Yellow Jackets or Concord.
In this week’s Atlantic Region event to be held at Owls Field in West Lawn, Pa., Shepherd will have the No. 2 seed.
When the six-team field started play yesterday (Thursday, May 15), Shepherd faced 5th-seeded Winston-Salem State. The other two first-round games had No. 1 seeded Millersville playing No. 6 seed Kutztown. Millersville was 36-14 and Kutztown was 30-19. Kutztown won the PSAC tournament and received that league’s automatic bid to the Regional.
Winston-Salem State is the champion of the six-school CIAA and had a 35-17 overall record.
Seton Hill and Mercyhurst, both PSAC teams, played each other in the third game on Thursday.
Both East Stroudsburg (28-17) and Shippensburg (29-17) were left out of the six-team Regional.
Regional play continues on through Sunday when a champion will emerge from the double elimination event. The winner of the Atlantic Region qualifies for the Division II College World Series.
Shepherd and Winston-Salem State are no baseball strangers. In 2012, both schools were in the Atlantic Region tournament played at this same Owls Stadium in West Lawn. Both lost first-round games and then the North Carolina-based Rams eliminated Shepherd by defeating the Rams in a loser’s bracket game.
Wilson, who played almost the entire season with a broken bone in one hand, will be needed if Shepherd doesn’t get all well-pitched games. However, his replacement, Mark McCormick, went 5-for-14 ( a .357 batting average) in his three tournament games.
Hvodozvic moved his record 11-0 in the defeat of West Liberty. Driver lasted only two innings against Urbana, which had lost its first-round game. Pansch went five innings in the loss to Concord.
The Rams have never made it through any NCAA Regional tournament, and have never reached as high as the College World Series.