Rams drop pair of games to UVa-Wise in double header action

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Rams outfielder Brenton Doyle (22), pictured here in a prior game, and the rest of the Rams' offense really did not get going until the second game of the day against the Blue Knights, when they scored 12 runs as a team. (Photo Courtesy of Shepherd University's Athletics Department).

The Rams were again on the road for Saturday’s double-header in Wise, Virginia, where they lost both games by scores of 3-1 and 6-2 against the UVa-Wise Cavaliers. With these two losses, the Rams eight-game win streak is no more, and their overall record now stands at 14-10. The two wins by UVa-Wise were only the second and third losses in Mountain East Conference (MEC) play for Shepherd so far this season, with a record of 9-3 now.

Following the two wins on Saturday afternoon, the Cavaliers’ record is now 10-15 overall and 7-5 in the MEC.

The opening game of the double-header was dominated by Cavaliers’ sophomore starting pitcher Greg Duncan (W, 3-2), who picked up his third win of the season in a complete-game effort. Duncan allowed just one run in the top of the fifth inning and surrendered seven hits in the contest. Against the Rams, Duncan recorded seven strikeouts.

It was largely a game marked by good defense on both sides, as shown by the four total runs scored.

UVa-Wise struck first in the bottom of the second inning. With two outs in the inning, Cavaliers redhsirt-junior second basemen Brett Yates hit an RBI-single off Rams junior starting pitcher Colin Benner, giving the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead. Benner, who with the loss, picked up his fourth of the season, as his record now stands at 0-4. Against the Cavaliers, Benner surrendered three runs and eight hits over five and two-thirds innings.

The Rams were able to hold the Cavs scoreless in the bottom of the third inning, but the Cavaliers added two runs to their lead in the bottom of the fourth inning off a sacrifice-fly set up by redshirt-sophomore center fielder Josh Haga, which allowed sophomore shortstop Jordon Turner to advance to third and brought junior first baseman Brock Smith in to score. This provided the Cavaliers with a 1-0 lead.

During the very next at-bat, Benner had a wild pitch that opened the opportunity for Turner to head home and extend the lead to 3-0.

The lone offense for the Rams in the early game came from senior third basemen Chase Hoffman, who hit a solo-shot to left field in the top of the sixth inning. However, Shepherd could not capitalize on any momentum, as they remained scoreless otherwise, with the game finishing in a 3-1 victory for the Cavaliers.

The second game of Saturday’s double-header saw a similar storyline reappear, as Cavaliers’ freshman starting pitcher RJ Vanvickle pitched a complete-game himself. Vanvickle held the Rams’ batters to just three hits and two earned runs in his seven innings of action. Vanvickle also picked up his third win of the season as he improved his record to 2-3.

The UVa-Wise offense was again the ones to jump out to the early lead, as shown by a four-run outburst in the bottom of the second inning. A fielding error by the Rams defense allowed Haga to advance from second base all the way home, as well as Turner to score from his place at third. This gave the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead at this point in the game.

The Cavaliers’ very next batter, sophomore catcher Tyler Blaum, extended the lead to 5-0 after he belted a two- run home run to left field later in the inning, scoring senior third basemen Stuart Paz on the play as well.

Shepherd’s batters finally responded in the top of the fifth inning, with an RBI-groundout by junior right fielder Nick Atkinson that scored sophomore center fielder Brenton Doyle, as the Rams were able to trim the lead to 5-2 for a moment.

Paz scored the sixth and final run in the winning effort for the Cavaliers thanks to an RBI-single by Smith in the bottom of the fifth inning, which gave the Cavaliers a 6-2 lead.

The Rams’ offense could not muster any more runs in the top of the sixth or seventh innings, as Vanvickle successfully shut down any comeback effort in not allowing a single hit in that span, preserving the Cavaliers’ 6-2 victory.

The Rams will hope to rebound when they welcome Seton Hill University to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on Tuesday, April 3, for more double-header action/ The first game of the day will take place at 1 p.m., followed by the second game at 3:30 p.m.

Vaughn Brewer is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached at vbrewe01@rams.shepherd.edu