The Shepherd Rams baseball team (29-13, 23-5 MEC) went on the road to Hudson, Ohio, and won both games of its double-header against the Notre Dame Ohio Falcons (17-28, 14-14 MEC) on Sunday afternoon, April 29. In the first game of the day, the Rams started off slowly offensively, but prevailed with a 6-1 victory over the Falcons. The Rams used a six-run fifth inning to earn a 6-5 win in the second game of the afternoon after falling behind by a 5-0 score.
With the two victories, the Rams continued their impressive play of late, as the two victories against the Falcons pushed the Rams’ record to 14-2 in their past 16 games, an impressive feat to say the least.
The Falcons got on the scoreboard first in the first game of the afternoon in the bottom of the third inning. Redshirt-freshman designated hitter Lukas Thompson stole second base, while an error by Rams sophomore first baseman Christian Hamel allowed junior short stop Naja Garica to come in to score to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
This would be the only run of the game that the Falcons would be able manage against Rams junior starting pitcher Justin Smith (W, 7-2), who at times looked dominant when facing the Falcons’ lineup. Smith pitched a complete game, seven-inning gem where he allowed just one run (unearned) on five hits, walked three, and struck out five.
Smith got himself into trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning by allowing a single by sophomore center fielder Adam Purdy, but after stealing second base, Purdy got greedy and attempted to steal third base. The Rams were able to throw the ball in time to third base in time to tag Purdy out on the play.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, this would be as close as they would get to scoring another run.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, after walking two Falcons batters, Smith got the next two Falcons batters to fly out and strike out, respectively, to end the game.
The Rams’ offense would make up for Hamel’s mistake in the top of the fourth inning when sophomore designated hitter Brian McCourt singled to left center field and brought junior catcher Eddie Nottingham on the play to tie the game up at a 1-1 score.
Sophomore short stop Trenton Burgreen would put the Rams back in front with a single two batters later. Burgreen’s single would actually stretch into a double thanks to an error by the Falcons’ defense. Junior left fielder Reid Entsminger reached third base on the play, while McCourt sprinted home to put the Rams back in front by a 2-1 score.
Despite how well Smith was performing on the mound for the Rams, Shepherd knew it had to put some more runs on the board to take the pressure off of Smith.
This is exactly what the Rams’ offense did in the top of the fifth inning, scoring three more runs to increase their lead to 5-1 by the end of the inning.
Nottingham hit an RBI-single to left center field that gave Rams sophomore center fielder Brenton Doyle ample time to score, giving the Rams a 3-1 lead at this point.
Two batters later, a sacrifice fly by McCourt to center field provided sufficient time for Hamel to tag up from third base and come in to score to provide the Rams with a 4-1 lead.
Shepherd’s lead would grow to 5-1 as a result of a fielder’s choice by the Falcons’ defense. Junior catcher Ryan Kosmynka saw Rams senior third baseman Chase Hoffman attempting to steal second base. Kosmynka threw a strike to second baseman Austin Barnhart, who was able to successfully tag out Hoffman.
However, during the play, Nottingham took this time to sprint to home plate from third base to put the Rams up by four with a 5-1 score. Nottingham displayed excellent timing on the play, as he frustrated the Falcons’ defense after recording the out on Hoffman.
After Hamel scored on an error by Purdy in the top of the seventh inning, Shepherd took a commanding 6-1 lead, which would go on to be the final score that the Rams would win by in the first game of the day.
Falcons junior starting pitcher Kenny Pierson (L, 5-1) suffered his first loss of the season for the Falcons. Pierson struggled against the Rams’ lineup, but his defense did not help him out much by committing a fair number of costly mistakes defensively.
In six innings against the Rams, Pierson allowed six runs (three earned) on 11 hits, walked one, and struck out four.
The second game of the day was looking very gloomy for the Rams through the first four innings of play, as the Rams saw themselves fall behind by a 5-0 score.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Rams’ defense successfully caught Purdy trying to steal second base and were able to tag him out, but an error by Rams junior second baseman Giovanni Torres allowed Falcons junior left fielder Ricky Phillips to get to third base and eventually home plate.
This gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead for the second straight game against the Rams, but once again, however, the Rams would be able come back to earn another victory.
A comeback did not look promising for the Rams after the next few innings of play, however, as the Falcons’ offense began to find some life.
In the bottom of the third inning, sophomore third baseman Drake May smacked a single to center field that resulted in two RBIs, as Thompson and freshman catcher Leo Wells came in to score, stretching the Falcons’ lead to 3-0.
Wells drove in a run himself by singling to Burgreen, who could not throw the ball to first base in time to get Wells out. During the play, Naja scored to give the Falcons a 5-0 lead.
For as great as the Falcons’ offense was playing, the Falcons went down a cliff offensively during the final three innings of play, only recording one hit off of Rams junior relief pitcher Collin Benner (W, 2-4).
This would prove to be costly, as the Rams’ offense finally woke up in the top of the fifth inning, which saw the Rams score six runs to take a narrow 6-5 lead over the Falcons.
Junior right fielder Nick Atkinson gave the Rams the spark it needed offensively with a three-run home run off of Falcons sophomore starting pitcher Cam Fuller, bringing the Rams to within two, as the score now stood at 5-3 in favor of the Falcons just like that.
A bases-loaded walk by sophomore relief pitcher Danny Matic allowed Hoffman to advance to first base, while Hamel came home to score for the Rams, pulling the Rams to within one with a 5-4 score at this point.
McCourt continued the Rams’ scoring onslaught in the top of the fifth inning with a two-RBI single to left field that drove home Nottingham and Smith, putting the Rams back in front by a 6-5 score.
The Rams had retaken all of the momentum, as the Falcons were left to wonder what happened and what could have been.
Benner came in relief of Rams freshman starting pitcher Adam Miller. In three innings against the Falcons, Miller struggled to say the least, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits while recording just one strike out.
Benner, over the course of the final four innings, surrendered just the one hit mentioned earlier and struck out three in what a solid outing out of the bullpen for Benner.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Benner put the finishing touches on the Rams’ victory and earned the save by getting the first three Falcons’ batters to ground out and fly out twice, respectively, to end the game and give Shepherd a hard-fought 6-5 victory.
Falcons freshman relief pitcher Devon Robb (L, 1-3) was credited with the loss despite not allowing the hit to McCourt that put the Rams back in front. Robb walked the only two batters he faced, Smith and Nottingham, who would go on to be the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively, before being relieved by Matic, who gave up the hit to McCourt.
This win gives the Rams some nice momentum heading into their next game on Tuesday afternoon, May 1, at home against the Shippensburg Raiders at 3 p.m. in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in what will be a single-game matchup.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com