The Shepherd Rams softball team (14-8, 6-4 MEC) went on the road to face the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals (10-15, 6-4 MEC) in West Liberty, West Virginia, on Saturday afternoon for double-header action. The Rams suffered a 5-0 shutout in the first game of the day to the Cardinals, but responded well in the second game of the afternoon, coming out on top by a 5-1 score.
Shepherd’s offense really could not find a rhythm against Cardinals Mallory Chapman (W, 9-6), who limited the Rams’ offense to just two hits in her complete-game, seven-inning dominant effort against the Rams.
Chapman struggled with her control at times, as evidenced by the five Rams she walked, but Chapman more than made up for those blunders with her eight strikeouts on the afternoon. The only area the Rams played well in offensively was drawing walks. Aside from that, the Rams really appeared lost and confused offensively against Chapman.
In the bottom of the first inning, Chapman put her versatility on display with her three-run home run that jumped the Cardinals out an early 3-0 lead. Chapman was clicking on all cylinders against the Rams, as they were not sure how to combat Chapman’s efforts on the mound or at the plate.
Shepherd senior starting pitcher Kaitlin Munda (L, 3-4), who went on to take the loss for the Rams, gave up this three-run home run to Chapman in the bottom of the first inning, but appeared to settle down a little bit after this early mistake.
The Cardinals did not get on the scoreboard again until the bottom of the third inning. Cardinals senior left fielder Cassie Holstein capitalized off of a wild pitch from Munda and hustled home to increase the Cardinals’ lead to 3-0.
With all of the Rams’ struggles offensively early on, mistakes like this from Munda did not help the Rams’ efforts at all.
Munda allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits, walked two, and struck out three in her two and one-thirds innings of work against the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.
An RBI-single by Cardinals junior second baseman Jackie Cramer brought in junior pinch runner Taylor DiPerna in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Cardinals even more separation room with a 5-0 lead.
The Rams would draw two walks in the top of the seventh inning to get two runners into scoring position with two outs, but a force out at second base would on a ground ball by Munda would end the game, giving the Cardinals the 5-0 victory in the first game of the day.
Things would turn out much better for the Rams in their second game of the day against the Cardinals, as the offense registered five runs on ten hits, an eight-hit improvement from the first game of the day.
A fielder’s choice off of a ground ball by Rams freshman second baseman Leann Brown gave ample time for junior center fielder Kaitlyn Konopka to get the Rams on the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead. Brown also made it safely to first base on time on the play with a great display of hustle.
Cramer countered for the Cardinals in the bottom of the second inning with an RBI-single to left field that drove home junior first baseman Courtney Rogers that tied the game at a 1-1 score.
This would be all that the Cardinals would be able to score off of Rams junior starting pitcher Lori Sturgill (W, 7-3), who surrendered just one run on five hits in her complete-game, seven-inning winning effort against the Cardinals. Sturgill only walked one batter and struck out four as well for the Rams.
Chapman, who was called into pitching duty again for Cardinals Erin Unterbrink in the second game of the day, may have easily been fatigued from having to pitch in both of the games. In her seven-inning performance against the Rams, Chapman (L, 9-7) did not put on nearly as good of a showing in her first appearance of the day, allowing five runs on ten hits, walking four, and striking out six.
The Rams would go on to score the last four runs of the game to eventually walk out of West Liberty with a 5-1 victory.
Sturgill contributed the first of these four runs with her RBI-single up the middle that brought home Brown in the top of the third inning, making the score 2-1 in favor of Shepherd.
The lead grew to 3-1 later in the inning courtesy of Rams senior catcher Molly Staley, who sent an RBI-single to Cardinals freshman shortstop Heather Pinney that provided Sturgill the necessary time needed to come home, increasing the Rams’ lead to 3-1 at this point.
During the final five innings of play, the Cardinals got numerous runners on base and in scoring position, but just could not find a way to deliver a clutch hit to get the runners home and reduce the Rams’ lead.
Where Wheeling Jesuit struggled, Shepherd seemed to excel at in this game. The Rams were able to take advantage of numerous chances, such as in the case of Sturgill. In the top of the fourth inning, Sturgill again came to the plate and recorded her second RBI of the day by sending an RBI-single up the middle that drove home junior designated hitter Alexis Shearer to increase the Rams’ lead to 4-1.
Shearer capped off the Rams’ bounce-back performance offensively in the second game of the day by hitting an RBI-single to second base in the top of the fifth inning that increased the Rams’ lead to 5-1.
The Cardinals were only able to get one runner, Cramer, in scoring position in the final two innings of play, and could not bring her home. These failures and the other previously mentioned factors helped seal the Cardinals’ fate in the second game of the day, as they would go on to lose by a 5-1 score to the Rams.
The Rams will aim to put together a more complete performance offensively when they host Bloomsburg for a double-header on Tuesday afternoon, April 3. The first game of the afternoon will begin at 3 p.m., followed by the second game at 5 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org