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Shepherd takes No. 1 seed into baseball tourney

By Staff | May 13, 2016

Shepherd completed its regular season in the drizzle of rain and deluge of runs in a conference doubleheader it split with visiting Fairmont on Monday afternoon at Fairfax Field. The light rain was intermittent . . . but the runs came in bunches as the Rams won the opener, 12-6, on the strength of home runs from Jacob Carney and Christian Hamel and two hits apiece from JJ Sarty, Hamel and Ron Farley. That win gave the Rams the No. 1 seed in the six-team Mountain East Conference tournament that was scheduled to open in Beckley on May 12 (yesterday) and continue on through Sunday when a champion should be crowned.

In the anticlimactic second game, Fairmont left-hander Logan Johnson (a Jefferson High grad) went the distance in a nine-inning game that the Fighting Falcons won, 11-6, to get one win in the four-game series that began with a doubleheader in Bridgeport on Sunday.

Shepherd finished the regular season with a 33-13 overall record that included a 24-8 conference mark. The Fighting Falcons were 21-29 overall and 11-21 in conference games. Fairmont finished last in the North Division of the league.

It was a six-run fourth inning that settled the first game in Shepherd’s favor. Carney had his first home run of the season in that inning and Farley, Hamel, Chase Hoffman and Brandon Kirk also contributed hits in the uprising. Colin Benner pitched two scoreless innings for the Rams to get credit for his fifth win of the season. The teams were tied at 5-5 after only three innings of the nightcap when Shepherd stopped scoring against Johnson, who used in excess of 150 pitches in his route-going performance.

While the Rams couldn’t score but once in their last six turns, Fairmont posted five more runs against the combined pitching of Austin Guy and Brandon Hovel to get the season-ending victory.

All six runs Johnson allowed were earned and he was touched for 11 hits while walking four and fanning four. Fairmont helped itself immensely by turning three infield double plays in Shepherd’s last four turns.

Sarty had a Shepherd home run in his two hits; Farley had two singles as did Zane Bard. Hamel weighed in with a pair of hits.

Fairmont was led offensively by the three hits from Jacob Whitmore, two hits each from Dorian Hetzel, Josh Wine, Phillip Longnecker and Austin Norman, who homered and doubled. Shepherd starting pitcher Jamie Driver, vitally needed if the Rams are to make any noise in the conference tournament, lasted six innings and surrendered six runs (five earned).

In its tournament opener, Shepherd faced sixth-seeded Concord to begin its play. The other tournament qualifiers are West Virginia State, Notre Dame, Glenville, Concord and West Liberty.

This is only the third year in existence for the Mountain East Conference and West Virginia State won the tournament in both 2014 and 2015. Shepherd celebrated a rain-hampered Senior Day on Monday when it said goodbye to starter Tre Porter, starting rotation pitchers Driver and Sam Crater and Austin Guy, Vinnie Sorrentino and Bard. The Rams got the one win they needed to clinch the tournament’s No. 1 seed with no injuries.

The tournament will determine whether they keep playing in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional.