The Shepherd Rams baseball team was able to complete its series sweep of West Liberty with 9-5 and 13-2 victories in double-header action on Sunday afternoon on the road against the West Liberty Hilltoppers in West Liberty, West Virginia. Shepherd’s season record is now 26-12 and 20-4 in the MEC. With the two losses, West Liberty’s record drops to 14-19 and 12-12 in the MEC .
The Rams came out fast in the opener of the second consecutive double-header against West Liberty this weekend to the tune of a 5-0 lead through the first three innings of play. The strong offensive start by the Rams left the Hilltoppers needing to respond, which they were unable to do until the bottom of the fourth inning.
The scoring started in the top of the first inning after West Liberty freshman starting pitcher Logan Grimm through a wild pitch that allowed sophomore center fielder Brenton Doyle to capitalize and make it home, giving Shepherd a 1-0 lead just like that. The Rams could not manage to get another run across in the inning.
With quick work of the Hilltoppers’ batters, Shepherd came back out in the top of the second inning and put the pressure on with a three-run inning. In a bit of a scramble during junior right fielder Nick Atkinson’s ground ball, Hilltoppers’ sophomore catcher Chad Harper made an errant throw, which allowed Shepherd junior left fielder Reid Entsminger to score on the play, providing Shepherd with a 2-0 lead.
That scramble was followed by another error by Grimm when pitching during Atkinson’s second at-bat. The error allowed Atkinson to advance to second base and sophomore second basemen Eric Sloper to home plate to put the Rams up by a 3-0 score.
The Rams’ offense finished the inning with an RBI-single to left field by Doyle, which sent Atkinson to home plate. After the second inning, the score was 4-0 in favor of Shepherd.
Rams junior starting pitcher Justin Smith and the Rams’ defense were able to hold West Liberty in check, as the offense continued to build a larger lead.
The Rams extended the lead to 6-0 before the Hilltoppers could get one on the scoreboard. In the top of the third inning, Shepherd sophomore designated hitter Brian McCourt drove in a run with an RBI-single to left field, bringing home junior catcher Eddie Nottingham, stretching the Rams’ lead to 5-0 at this point.
Later on, in the top of the fourth inning, Doyle hit a successful sacrifice fly that brought Atkinson home, increasing the Rams’ lead to 6-0.
West Liberty got their first two runs from Harper, who’s double to right field turned into RBIs, as junior designated hitter Dalton Davis and senior center fielder Justice Jackson came in to score to cut Shepherd’s lead to four with a 6-2 score. The side was retired shortly after.
With the score sitting at 6-2, the Hilltoppers were now aggressive in their approach and got another run home in the bottom of the fifth via an error by the Rams’ defense. Junior left fielder Coby Eckstein capitalized off an error by Shepherd short stop Trenton Burgreen by making it to first base before Burgreen could get the ball to first base and record a force out. Burgreen’s error led to an RBI by Eckstein, as senior short stop Ethan Estes scored on the play to reduce the Rams’ lead to three with a 6-3 score .
However, the Rams were not done scoring themselves. Shepherd came out with another three-run inning in the top of the sixth inning, this time all coming from RBI-singles and a double. Doyle, and senior third baseman Chase Hoffman both registered an RBI-single in the inning, with Doyle scoring Atkinson and Hoffman sending home sophomore first baseman Christian Hamel from second base, respectively. Hamel, the previous batter to Hoffman, registered the RBI-double that scored Doyle earlier in the inning.
With this three-run outburst, the Rams now held a commanding 9-3 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.
West Liberty attempted a comeback but came up four runs short in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runs off Rams junior relief pitcher Colin Benner to get to the final tally of 9-5. Hilltoppers senior second baseman Vincent Haddox singled to right field, bringing home sophomore pinch hitter Hunter Westlake for the first of two West Liberty runs. The final run of the game was scored by Haddox after a loaded base walk drawn by Jackson.
Smith was awarded the win for his five-inning effort in which he allowed seven hits, three runs, and six strike outs. It was his sixth win on the year, as his overall record improves to 6-2.
Grimm was given the loss and fell to 2-3 on the season after surrendering six runs (three earned) on four hits in his three and two-thirds innings of action.
The late game of Sundays double-header was more of the same from the Rams’ offense with a more comfortable 13-2 win. Much like the early game, the Rams opened an early lead. This time, by the end of the second inning, Shepherd had 11 runs on the board.
A two-RBI-single by Nottingham that scored Hamel and Doyle and a three-RBI-triple by Doyle much later in the same inning helped the Rams take an 8-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first inning against the Hilltoppers.
After the Hilltoppers’ defense was able to stop the bleeding in the opening inning, they could not get much of anything going on the offensive side, as they were quickly retired in the bottom of the first.
Shepherd came back out in the top of the second inning swinging, as they scored an additional three runs thanks to a two-RBI-single into left field by McCourt and a successful sacrifice fly by Nick Atkinson, increasing the Rams’ lead to 11-0 in the top of the second inning.
After the 11-run onslaught by the Rams, both teams went into a lull, as neither team generated anything offensively until Shepherd was able to add its 12th and 13th runs for good measure in the top of the sixth inning.
Shepherd redshirt-freshman pinch runner Kendall Jordan scored from second base after a throwing error by Westlake. The final run was added to the Rams’ total after junior pinch hitter Giovanni Torres singled down the right field line, which brought home fellow pinch hitter Max Maxson, a sophomore.
The Hilltoppers were able to avoid a complete shut out in the bottom of the seventh inning by putting two runs on the scoreboard, even though the game was already decided. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, freshman pinch hitter Jarrett Delbrugge singled down the right field line, bringing home redshirt-freshman pinch hitter Tyler Cooley and freshman pinch hitter Jason Schutte.
Shepherd’s starting pitcher for the late game, Adam Miller, a freshman, was given the win after six innings of work which saw him give up just three hits and recording seven strikeouts. The win on the day improved Millers season record to 3-2.
Hilltoppers’ junior starting pitcher Mitch Viakley picked up the loss for West Liberty after a rough outing saw him surrender seven runs (five earned) in two-thirds innings of action in the top of the first inning. With the loss, Viakley’s record falls to 1-4 on the season.
The Rams get a small break until they face their next opponents, the Notre Dame Falcons, who they will face for a road double-header on Saturday, April 28, beginning at 5 p.m. in South Euclid, Ohio.
Vaughn Brewer is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org