Shepherd ‘Boys of Winter’ have Shippensburg on schedule
“The Boys of Winter”.
Shepherd’s baseball team wants to open its season this weekend. Not in the South. Not in the Southwest. Not in California.
No. Shepherd hopes to see the opening to the 2015 season right here on the frozen tundra of light gray, shades of brown and wind-whipped Fairfax Field on its campus.
Shippensburg, probably the most-talented team on its schedule, is the four-game opponent.
Consecutive doubleheaders are slated to begin at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The long-range forecast visited last week had high temperatures clinging to the upper 30’s or even lower 30’s for both days.
Last season — its first in the Mountain East Conference — saw the Rams finish first in the regular season infighting, get eliminated in the league tournament and then still manage an invitation to the six-team Atlantic Regional tournament, which was won by Seton Hill.
Third-year coach Matt McCarty has some quality NCAA Division II hitters returning.
Spencer Wolfe might even be the Atlantic Region’s best hitter. And he can catch or be employed on the left side of the infield. Matt Wilson is a second quality hitter and proved invaluable last year when he stayed in the lineup even when he had a broken bone in one hand.
Jacob Carney had an excellent freshman year at second base. Bryce Shemer was a fixture at third base.
Four new faces could hold the Rams’ run-scoring fortunes in their collective bats.
Infielder Tre Porter comes in from Potomac State and utility player Daniel Heleine transferred from WVU, where he was redshirted. Another player who could be seen at more than one position is Dom Wyshinski, a transfer like Porter and Heleine. Outfielder Jonathan “J.J.” Sarty played at William & Mary.
The best of the defensive infielders is Austin Guy, but will he hit enough to join an everyday lineup?
Although McCarty could find enough runs once the weather becomes conducive to being outdoors and trying to swing a bat, it is his pitching staff that is choked with question marks.
Beyond tried-and-equal-to-the-Mountain East-task starters Jamie Driver and Ryan Pansch, there are mostly questions or pitchers whose earned run averages last year exceeded seven runs a game.
Bryan DiRosario had some success with the Valley League’s Charles Town Cannons last summer. Tyler Thomas might be the most effective of all the others if he has developed more than a fastball. Both Sam Crater and Austin Hale pitched to ERAs of seven-plus in their first year with the Rams in 2014.
The Mountain East is not infested with baseball goliaths. Only West Virginia State, Concord and Notre Dame have much talent . . . with the other eight schools annually finding winning as problem-filled as the coarse and often unruly weather.
Shippensburg has already played three games in North Carolina against Belmont Abbey. The Red Raiders won once with a lineup of decent hitters that included Mike Marcinko, Ryan McMillen, Jimmy Spanos, Cody Ezolt, Jake Kennedy, Austin Allison, Dalton Hoiles, Grant Hoover and Calvin Sichler.
Belmont Abbey shelled starters Marcus Shippey and Mike Curtis, but Rich Michaud pitched seven shutout innings in a 14-0 win in the third game of the series.
Weather permitting, both teams will trot out their version of the “Boys of Winter” . . . and old Fairfax Field will creak and groan as the wind disturbs the comfort of even the swaying trees beyond the left field wall and the players bundled against the elements in the respective dugouts.