Passed balls, walks in Rams’ loss; survival in nightcap win
Tyler Piccolo was given a trial run at shortstop. Reid Entsminger platooned in right field. Tyler Thomas was the starting catcher until a hand problem sidelined him after only a hat full of games.
And now with Shepherd’s regular season almost a memory, the Rams prepare for the MEC tournament in Beckley.
Even with the North Division title almost wrapped up and the No. 1 seed in the tournament a near-certainty, Shepherd is anything but a polished article ready to stampede through event and race into the Atlantic Region against the best of the PSAC and Winston-Salem State.
After Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Notre Dame, a game in which catcher Dalton Haymaker was charged with another four passed balls and starting pitcher Joe Rindone walked seven of the 25 batters he saw in only 3.2 innings, two of those aforementioned players were brought back to the starting lineup for the second game of Sunday’s lengthy doubleheader. Fourteen of the 25 batters Rindone saw reached base against him.
Piccolo was the designated hitter, replacing slump-ridden Daniel Heleine, a strikeout victim some 58 times in 153 official at-bats.
Entsminger was the left-fielder, where Ron Farley is usually stationed. Farley has been removed in late-game situations for defensive reasons. Thomas had pinch hit in the losing opener in his first appearance since very early March.
In the nine-inning nightcap, the Rams won, 8-7, somehow protecting the five-run, first-inning outburst that was the reason they could prevail.
In that pivotal, early-game rally, there were four hits, with Piccolo delivering a two-run double and Entsminger clubbing a two-run home run. Brenton Doyle, recently elevated to the No. 2 spot in Shepherd’s batting order, had a single and JJ Sarty, the Rams’ home run leader with 12, contributed a double.
Starting Shepherd pitcher AJ Stead rode through four innings with a shutout. The skies toward the southwest were getting an angry look, even drawing an announcement about expected stormy weather, as Shepherd worked to get in the necessary 4.5 innings to make it an official game.
There would be three more Shepherd runs. But confident Notre Dame found ways to score seven runs . . . and a one-run win the way the weekend was moving in all directions gave the Rams a second consecutive split of the four games with the Falcons, already removed from any tournament playoff contention.
The closing weekend of regular season play finds Shepherd meeting Fairmont State in Bridgeport on Saturday, May 6, for a doubleheader slated to begin at 1 p.m . . . and the schedule finishes on Sunday, May 7, at Fairfax Field with 1 p.m. doubleheader against Fairmont State.
Shepherd, with its 22-6 MEC record, has a four-game lead over both Fairmont State and West Liberty, teams with identical 18-10 league marks. All three of those teams have qualified for the league tournament next week in Beckley.
Will the Rams keep Piccolo and Entsminger in the starting lineup? With the severe catching problems, will Thomas play some role at that position? Or will the moves seen in Sunday’s second game have been because it was the fourth game of a problem-filled weekend against Notre Dame, which left town with a 16-30 record?