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Driver gives Rams realistic hopes in upcoming tournament

By Staff | May 6, 2016

After all the statistical details from Shepherd’s two doubleheaders against homestanding Notre Dame (Ohio) had been chronicled and logged, the one most important factor that shone brightest for the Rams was the eight innings of one-run pitching they received from Jamie Driver.

Even though Driver had a no-decision in his work as the second-game starter on Sunday against the Falcons, his low-run, low-hit performance could be a precursor of what he could do in the fast-approaching Mountain East Conference tournament that begins next week in Beckley.

Driver had been a big winner for the Rams in 2015, but had struggled mightily this season and came into Sunday’s game with an ERA of over seven runs per game.

However, he harnessed the second-place Falcons, allowing just six hits and one walk while fanning three in permitting only one run. Shepherd couldn’t do much against Cam Fuller, who improved his record to 6-3.

Notre Dame won the Driver-pitched game in the ninth against Shepherd reliever Dan Galati with a run that ended the game that gave the Falcons a split of the four weekend games. The 2-1 loss came after Shepherd had won the opener, 11-2, behind the steady five innings of pitching work from freshman AJ Stead. Stead improved his record to 5-1 after allowing only three hits and four walks. He yielded two runs — both earned — and fanned three.

In Sunday’s 11-2 win, Ron Farley had two hits

and scored twice, while Mike Brown also had two hits, Daniel Heleine made his only hit count, it being a grand slam homer, and

Tre Porter drove in two runs.

The Rams and Notre Dame had also split Saturday’s twinbill with Shepherd winning the opener, 4-3, with two runs in the sixth after falling behind 3-2. Sam Crater went to 7-0 on the season with five innings of work. He allowed seven hits, but walked only two. All three runs off Crater were earned and he struck out three Falcons.

Jacob Carney and Porter drove in runs in the crucial sixth-inning rally. Galati pitched the last two innings for his second save. He skated on thin ice because he allowed four hits, but escaped without allowing any runs.

Carney, Heleine, Brandon Kirk and Christian Hamel all had two hits for the Rams. Chase Hoffman drew three walks.

Notre Dame won the Saturday nightcap when it chased left-hander John Bentley after 5.1 innings of the nine-inning game. Bentley had a 6-3 record after allowing eight earned runs, seven hits and four walks in a rare poor outing for him.

JJ Sarty had two hits for the Rams.

Shepherd clinched first place in the North Division of the league, and has a 21-7 conference record going into the final weekend of the regular season. Overall, the Rams are 30-12 and face Fairmont State in a 1 p.m. doubleheader (weather permitting) this afternoon at Fairfax Field.

Today’s scheduled games are the final home games of the 2016 season for the Rams, who are also slated to complete their regular season with a doubleheader against Fairmont State in Bridgeport on Sunday.

Former Jefferson High pitcher Logan Johnson will probably pitch one of today’s games for the Fighting Falcons.

Johnson has a 5-4 record

to date.

Shepherd’s Driver will likely start one of the four games scheduled against Fairmont . . . and a repeat or near-repeat of what he accomplished against Notre Dame would send the Rams to Beckley’s tournament with four starting pitchers who could be counted on in Shepherd’s attempt to dethrone two-time tournament champion West Virginia State, the leader of the South Division going into the season’s final weekend of doubleheaders.