Seven straight wins for Rams; host Concord on Sunday
Shepherd pitcher Sam Crater regained the form that made him the Mountain East Conference pitcher of the year in 2015. Shortstop Tre Porter drilled three home runs in the two games of the Rams’ doubleheader sweep – by scores of 4-1 and 13-5 – against Charleston on the distinctly pleasant March afternoon. Porter had six RBIs in the come-from-behind win in the second game where he had a grand slam homer and two-run shot.
And the Rams bubbled to the surface in the Northern Division of the league with a 7-1 Mountain East record and 13-5 overall mark that now includes wins in seven straight games.
Crater improved his record to 3-0 with a complete game four-hitter that saw him fan six Golden Eagles. Along the way, Crater walked only one and hit two batters. He retired Charleston in routine order in four innings and completed his route-going effort by avoiding any damage in the seventh when he got Tyler Ocker to fly out with two runners on base.
The Rams trailed, 5-2, when they batted in the bottom of the fourth of the nine-inning second game.
Porter’s grand slam homer accounted for the final four runs of what his blast made a seven-run inning … and a 9-5 lead for the hit-happy Rams.
Freshman left-hander AJ Stead struggled for the first time all season, but was removed only after he qualified for the pitching win after overcoming his day-long problems. Stead went five innings and allowed seven hits, 11 base runners, and three walks. He struck out six despite not having his usual fastball or control.
Jamie Driver, Dan Gilati and Ryan Simpson divided four scoreless, but bumpy-road, innings between themselves. The Golden Eagles had six base runners against Driver and Gilati and only Simpson worked a three up, three down inning.
Shepherd’s 4-1 win in the opener was keyed by a three-run third inning where Ron Farley drove in two runs and JJ Sarty had an RBI double. There were only six Shepherd hits but 11 base runners in the Rams’ six turns.
Porter’s solo homer was Shepherd’s only run until the three-run inning gave Crater enough room to be able to breathe much easier.
Charleston’s Tyler Shreve fanned eight in his six innings of complete game work.
In the second-game romp, Shepherd collected 12 hits off three Charleston pitchers.
Jacob Carney was 3-for-5 and more importantly scored three times. Porter was on base four times, going 3-for-4 from his newly-seen second spot in the batting order. He scored three times. Sarty contributed two hits and catcher Christian Hamel had a solo home run in the prolonged seven-run rally.
After traveling to face Shippensburg on March 29, the Rams return to conference play April 1 when they are in deepest southwest Virginia to see Virginia-Wise in a conference doubleheader.
On Sunday, April 3, the Rams are back at venerable Fairfax Field to meet conference-rival Concord in a doubleheader slated to begin at 1 p.m.
Shepherd’s recent seven-game winning surge has kept it in the top six teams in the Atlantic Region rankings … and with Crater authoring a complete game pitching win and Porter slugging three homers in a doubleheader sweep the Rams have put themselves in the thick of a mid-season run for both conference and regional honors.