Shepherd hits its way to conference championship; headed next to Regional
Averaging 15 hits a game, Shepherd blew through the Mountain East Conference baseball tournament with four consecutive wins and the subsequent league championship. The postseason success landed the Rams and their 37-13 overall record in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional that began yesterday (Thursday, May 19) in West Lawn, Pennsylvania.
Shepherd was the No.1 seed in the league tournament and it hit like a top-seeded team.
In their opener last Thursday, the Rams outscored Concord, 14-10, with a 19-hit attack. Concord scored three times in the top of the first against John Bentley, but the Rams answered with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first. After five innings, it was 8-5 with Shepherd leading, but a five-run Concord sixth had the Mountain Lions in front, 10-9.
Shepherd then plated three more runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to get the needed victory.
Jamie Driver pitched the last 3.1 innings to get the win.
Jacob Carney went 5-for-5 for the Rams, Tre Porter had a Shepherd home run and was 3-for-5 and Ron Farley was also 3-for-5 and tripled.
Facing Glenville the next day, the Rams were given a route-going three-hitter by freshman AJ Stead, who improved his record to 7-1 when Shepherd posted an 8-1 win over the Pioneers.
Leading 6-0 after only three innings, the Rams coasted home behind their 13 hits. Farley, Daniel Heleine and Brandon Kirk all had doubles. Heleine was 4-for-5 with four RBIs and Porter drove in three runs.
In its third game, Shepherd faced equally unbeaten West Virginia State and the Rams had their senior right-hander, Sam Crater, on the mound. Crater entered the night with an 8-0 record. He was 9-0 after his complete-game effort that was rewarded with 11 runs and 16 hits from his teammates.
The 11-5 verdict was achieved behind Porter’s two home runs, a Heleine homer, a early 5-1 lead and then a four-run seventh inning.
Carney was 3-for-6, Porter had three RBIs, Heleine 2 RBIs, Farley two hits and reserve Zane Bard two hits. Bard entered when Porter was ejected in the fifth inning.
Needing only one more win to take the 2016 league tournament and with it the automatic bid to the Atlantic Regional tournament, the Rams once again faced West Virginia State on Sunday. The once-beaten Yellowjackets needed two wins over Shepherd to repeat as the conference champions, the same as they had been in 2014 and 2015.
West Virginia State scored the first run . . . but Shepherd scored 19 runs to romp to a 19-2 win despite the fact that Porter could not play, being suspended for one game because of his ejection the day before.
Driver improved his record to 7-4 with the first seven innings of work.
Mike Brown had two doubles as did Christian Hamel. Heleine added a fifth Shepherd double to its array of safeties.
Hamel was 4-for-5, Brown had a 4-for-6 afternoon, Heleine was 3-for-4, Carney went 2-for-4, Kirk was 2-for-4, Chase Hoffman was 2-for-4 and Bard went 2-for-5 with four RBIs.
In this week’s Atlantic Regional there will be seven teams entered. Shepherd is seeded No. 4 behind Millersville, West Chester and Mercyhurst of the PSAC. Seeded No. 5 and Shepherd’s first-round opponent is Seton Hill. The last two seeds are East Stroudsburg and Chowan.
As the No. 1 seed and host team, Millersville got a first-round bye and will play the survivor of the Shepherd vs. Seton Hill game on Friday. The other two first-round games had West Chester playing Chowan and Mercyhurst facing East Stroudsburg.
In its just-completed conference tournament, Shepherd’s starters and Bard went 67-for-169 (a .396 batting average) and got pitching wins from Driver, Stead and Crater.
First-round opponent Seton Hill is in its seventh consecutive Atlantic Region tournament . . . and Millersville carries a 45-5 record and a deep pitching staff into the double elimination event.