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If Pansch remains healthy he could be Shepherd’s best

By Staff | Mar 3, 2017

The list of Shepherd’s baseball opponents reads like a Murderer’s Row of NCAA Division II teams. UNC-Pembroke, USC-Aiken, West Chester and East Stroudsburg have sent the Rams down to defeats that weren’t wholly unexpected . . . but the margins of those losses wasn’t to be predicted.

With a 1-7 record the Rams haven’t pitched well, fielded well or found enough “big innings” when on offense.

And possibly the best team in the Atlantic Region comes to Fairfax Field on Saturday for a scheduled doubleheader. Millersville, which was ranked first in the nation after winning almost all its games in the 2016 regular season. The Maruaders are in Shepherdstown for two games beginning at noon . . . and then the Rams return the doubleheader the next day by going to Millersville for a Sunday twinbill.

Two left-hander pitchers who thrived in the Mountain East Conference in 2016 have been consistently solved this year. A.J. Stead and John Bentley haven’t been able to keep the Rams alive for the most part.

Bentley did do well in Shepherd’s only win of the season when he received credit for the win over UNC-Pembroke .

But in two subsequent games, Bentley hasn’t been a mystery and his record is 1-2 and his ERA is a large one.

Stead has an 0-2 record and hasn’t fooled many batters so far. His ERA shows the problems he has had in getting outs.

Those two left-handers were thought to be weekend pitchers when Shepherd begins its conference schedule.

None of the Mountain East teams has the quality lineups or the pitchers the Rams have seen in the early going.

It’s been three years now since Washington High right-hander Ryan Pansch has been healthy enough to be as valuable as any pitcher the Rams have used.

As a freshman, Pansch was a first-team All-MEC selection. His crisp fastball in the 2014 season was able to earn him a 7-4 record and a nifty 2.67 ERA. He appeared in 15 games and started 10 of those. He registered three saves as well and fanned 73 batters in 64 innings.

The next season Shepherd was positioned once again to be a dominant team in the Mountain East Conference.

Pansch started one of the early-season games . . . but could only pitch 2.1 innings before leaving to an arm injury. He didn’t allow any runs in that lone appearance, but the rest of the season saw him sidelined as March, April and the first week in May went by.

He did not pitch at all during the 2016 season.

And now the Rams are off to a problem-filled start to this 2017 season.

It’s Pansch who has the best arm on the pitching staff. He doesn’t use many curveballs or off-speed pitches. He usually can defeat opposing lineups with his fastball.

He’s capable of dominating Mountain East lineups . . . if he’s healthy.

And the way things look now, his health is going to be as important as anything concerning these Rams.

Millersville might just keep the Rams moving on a losing path. But the Marauders don’t play in the Mountain East Conference.

Shepherd’s league has teams it has beaten for three straight seasons, including last year when it won both the regular season title and the tournament championship that gave it a berth in the Atlantic Region Tournament in West Lawn, Pennsylvania.

Pansch can be a beacon who can energize the season and give Shepherd win after win over conference rivals.

But he has to remain standing.

The 1-7 start could get messier before it gets better. But then comes the Mountain East teams.

Pansch can win his starts over them.