Bentley blanks Urbana in doubleheader split
One shutout-throwing pitcher and one rally-filled inning to back his four-hitter were the positives when Shepherd split a Sunday conference doubleheader with Urbana.
Left-hander John Bentley blanked the Blue Knights on just four hits while fanning eight and the Rams scored all four of their runs in one inning in a 4-0 win in the seven-inning opener. Run-producing hits by Chase Hoffman and Brandon Kirk chased home four runs and Bentley did the rest. Kirk’s contribution was a three-run homer.
In the nightcap, the Rams — despite a 3-0 lead — could never find a meaningful two-out hit after the early innings and fell, 6-3, to the team that occupies fifth place in the six-team North Division of the Mountain East Conference.
Shepherd had left 10 runners stranded through just six innings of nine-inning second game.
With a 10-4 conference record the Rams were still perched atop their division… but they had made no friends at NCAA Division II headquarters in Indianapolis.
If the Rams have visions of qualifying for the Atlantic Region tournament that is a part of the Division II national tournament they just might have to win the Mountain East Tournament in early May to get there.
Only six teams are selected by NCAA headquarters to play in the Atlantic Region event, and Shepherd was not ranked in the top six despite a 16-8 record at the time of the last voting.
Millersville, East Stroudsburg (a 19-1 winner over Shepherd very early in the weather-jumbled season), Mercyhurst, Seton Hill and West Chester were ranked one-through-five in Regional findings. For some reason only five teams were listed. In the previous rankings, Gannon of the same Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, was sixth.
The winner of the Mountain East Conference tournament gets an automatic bid to the Atlantic Regional, as does the winner of the CIAA tournament. Unless the Rams pick up the winning pace, finding a championship in the Beckley-based league tournament will be their only way to reach the Atlantic Regional event.
Combining the Shepherd efforts for both games, only outfielder Ron Farley had as many as three hits. In the second game, the Rams were 0-for-4 with two outs and runners in scoring position. And they hit into three double plays as the Blue Knights came back from a three-run deficit.
In Bentley’s route-going shutout, he took full advantage of the three left-handed batters Urbana tried against him. Those three batters were a combined 0-for-8 and struck out five times without ever getting the ball out of the infield in the fast-paced game that took only one hour and 25 minutes to complete.
Bentley’s fourth win made him Shepherd’s top winner in the Rams’ 17-9-record season.