Cerebral Millersville does just enough to beat Rams
Nationally-ranked Millersville was being handcuffed by Shepherd pitcher Joe Rindone. But the Marauders used their baseball intelligence and fundamentals to make a late-game comeback to beat the Rams, 4-3, in the first game of a wind-blown doubleheader at Fairfax Field.
Millersville registered a sensational 53-7 record last season and was finally beaten in the NCAA Division II national championship game by Nova Southeastern.
The 2016 team had non-pareil pitching and a mostly leak-proof defense to make its nothing-special run production hold up on most days.
Against the troubled Rams, the Marauders put on display the means to win games without much hitting or many runs.
They stole six bases . . . weddled five walks off Rindone . . . moved along the base paths using two Shepherd passed balls and two wild pitches . . . took full advantage of the two errors the Rams committed and the balk Rindone had.
Shepherd” mid-game 3-1 lead should have been more.
But with runners at first and third in the bottom of the first, Millersville catcher Mitch Stoltzfus took a huge chunck out of a full-blown Ram rally when he threw out the late-breaking Ron Farley at second after J.J. Sarty had easily glided into third on an apparent double steal attempt.
Shepherd could score only twice in the first although it had five base runners and four hits.
Still leading, 2-0, in the fourth, Shepherd got its first three batters on base. But then Dalton Haymaker struck out against gritty starter Eli Nabholz. The unbeaten 6-foot-6 right-hander then induced Reid Entsminger to hit into an inning-ending double play
. . . keeping the score at
Millersville hadn’t scored despite its penchant for stealing bases and advancing almost at will on passed balls and wild pitches.
Dan Neff had a lead-off hit to begin the Marauder fifth. He quickly stole second and moved to third on a ground out to the right side. Another infield ground out erased Rindon’s shutout and the Maauders with a run of the precarious Shepherd lead.
Jacob Carney scored a Shepherd run, but with runners on first and second and two outs Millersville appeared to be obsessed with Farley’s lead at second. Suddenly Nabholz whirled toward first and picked off Chase Hoffman when first baseman David Summerfield quickly moved in behind him. The inning was over and Shepherd had lost another base runner.
The Millersville sixth was Rindone’s undoing.
He walked Summerfield and balked him to second. Rindone then fanned both Manning Brookens and Cole Friese. Another passed ball allowed Summerfield to reach third. Grayson Miller grounded a pitch just wide of third baseman Hoffman, who did well to corral the ball
. . . but his throw was wide of first and Summerfield scored, making it a 3-2 Shepherd lead.
Rindone issued a two-out walk and both base runners moved up on a passed ball.
Miller scored on a passed ball and then the go-ahead run scored an error by the Ram shortstop, who had only two balls hit to him all day and he booted them both.
Millersville had scored three runs on only one hit . . . but screamed around the bases on a stream of Shepherd mistakes.
Millersville brought in closer Mike Mock, who retired six of the seven batters he saw to register a two-inning save.
Mock fanned four in his two-inning stint.
The Marauders needed no such late-game dramatics in the nightcap as they scored six early-game runs on the same sort of Shepherd defensive flaws, stolen bases and seven hits covering the second and third innings.
The final count came as darkness crept over frigid Fairfax.
Millersville had a 13-4 win against Shepherd starter AJ Stead and a defense that had five errors.
There were 16 Millersville hits against Stead and relievers Ryan Potts, Brandon Hovel and Gabriel Castro.
Much of the noise came against Hovel in the anti-climactic sixth when only the most hardy of fans remained.
Shepherd had eight hits with Brian McCourt and Sarty getting multi-hit games.
The Rams were 1-9
and the Marauders were 10-3.
And Millersville had used its intellect, attention to detail and fundamentals to prevail over the Rams (twice), the numbing wind and ever-present cold and even Rindone.