The Shepherd Rams softball team (12-4, 5-1 MEC) used strong pitching efforts and took advantage of costly errors from the Urbana University Blue Knights (3-21, 1-7 MEC) to take both games of a doubled-header matchup against the Blue Knights on Sunday afternoon, March 25, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Shepherd came out with a 9-1 victory in game one, followed by a 4-1 triumph in game two.
In the first game of the day, the Rams jumped on the Blue Knights early, capitalizing off of the numerous mistakes that the Blue Knights made.
Junior right fielder Morgan Cox reached first base in the bottom of the first inning thanks to an error by Blue Knights sophomore first baseman Bailee Faulkner. Cox would later steal second base in the inning to put herself in scoring position.
This set up an RBI-double by freshman second baseman Leann Brown that drove home Cox and junior center fielder Kaitlyn Konopka on the play, giving Shepherd an early 2-0 lead.
Brown came home to score thanks to an RBI-single to right field by junior first baseman Connor Gilligan later on in the inning, stretching the Rams’ lead to 3-0 at this point.
Freshman shortstop Ashley Burger came in to score to give the Rams a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Konopka reached first base on an error by the Blue Knights third baseman.
The game could best be summed up by what happened later in the inning. Brown popped out to the Blue Knights sophomore starting pitcher Carly Allen, but Allen committed an error on the play, allowing Rams relief pitcher Kaitlin Munda to come in to score to increase the Rams’ lead to 5-0 at this point.
While Allen (L, 1-11) may not have had her best day on the mound, but the Blue Knights’ defense really let her down countless times while she was on the mound.
Allen pitched one and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs (one earned), allowed three hits, walked one Ram, and did not post a strikeout.
Committing errors was really a problem for the Blue Knights against the Rams. The Blue Knights displayed poor fundamentals against the Rams, committing eight errors in route to the 9-1 loss to the Rams.
Shepherd had as much as a seven-run lead against the Blue Knights in game one. Rams junior starting pitcher Lori Sturgill hit an RBI-single to center field, giving ample time for Brown to come in to score to augment the Rams’ lead to 7-0 through four innings of play.
The only run the Blue Knights were able to score came off of an RBI-single to right field by senior catcher Margo Jackson in the top of the sixth inning that trimmed the Rams’ lead to 7-1, but the Blue Knights were not able to get any closer than that.
Shepherd would add two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, stretching their lead to 9-, which would go on to be the final score.
Sturgill (W, 5-2) pitched three innings, gave up one run on one hit, walked one Blue Knight, and struck out one Blue Knight. This solid performance by Sturgill really put the outcome of the game in little doubt for the Rams, who were already having success on the offensive end.
In game two, neither side got into the scoring column in the bottom of the fourth inning, when senior left fielder Jessica Robinson recorded an RBI-single to left field, bringing Gilligan home to give the Rams a 1-0 lead.
Against the Rams in the second game of the day, the Blue Knights committed four errors. They really struggled to make the simple plays against the Rams all day long.
One of these errors was committed in the bottom of the fifth inning by Blue Knights sophomore shortstop Mykee Holtz, who allowed Gilligan to reach first base on a ground ball hit to her. While this was happening, Brown hustled home to give the Rams their second run of the day, as the Rams now led 2-0 at this point.
Later in the inning, junior pinch hitter Alexis Shearer finally broke the flood gates open for the Rams offensively with her two-RBI single to center field that gave the Rams nice separation room with a 4-0 lead through five innings of play.
Freshman second baseman Allison Neeld got the Blue Knights on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh inning by recording an RBI-groundout to Burger. Neeld may not have reached first base in time, but Holtz was able to take advantage of the occupied Rams’ defense and score on the play, trimming the Rams’ lead to 4-1.
On the next at-bat, Blue Knights freshman relief pitcher Kayleigh Pate struck out swinging to end the game and cement the 4-1 victory for the Rams.
Shepherd freshman starting pitcher Cheyenne Van Pelt (W, 3-0) really locked down the Blue Knights’ lineup in the second game of the day. Van Pelt surrendered just one hit while striking out one in five innings of play, a dominant performance to say the least.
Blue Knights freshman starting pitcher Jade Laviolette (L, 1-3) took the loss for the Blue Knights against the Rams in game two. Laviolette pitched five innings, gave up four runs (one earned), allowed seven hits, walked two Rams, and struck out two more Rams in what was a frustrating outing.
Currently, the Rams are in second place in the North Division in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings. The Rams have one loss in conference play just as the first place Fairmont State Fighting Falcons, but the Falcons, who have a 7-1 in MEC play so far, have played two more conference games and won them both, giving them the slight present edge over Shepherd.
On Monday afternoon, the Rams play host to the Notre Dame College Falcons in double-header action. Game one will take place at 12 p.m., followed by game two at 2 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com