The Rams were able to build off Sunday’s double-header wins against Charleston with a 4-3 win in the early game and a 12-6 win in late game action against the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets on the road in Glenville, West Virginia, on Monday afternoon, March 26.
With the two wins Monday, the Rams record is now 12-8, including a 7-1 mark in Mountain East Conference play.
With the two losses, West Virginia State fell to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in the MEC.
Shepherd played as the home team in this neutral site double-header.
West Virginia State put the first run on the scoreboard in the early game with an RBI-single by sophomore center fielder Jared Hunt, scoring senior second basemen Brandon Wright to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead.
The Rams were able to stop the first inning scoring there but could not match with a run in the bottom of the first inning, as they soon fell down 2-0 in the top of the second inning.
Yellow Jacket senior catcher Johnathan Cline hit a solo home run off Rams junior starting pitcher Collin Benner, increasing the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 2-0.
Shepherd finally answered in the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run by senior first baseman Daniel Heleine, trimming the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 2-1 at this point. That was the lone offense for the Rams in the bottom of the second inning.
During their next at bats in the top of the third inning, the Yellow Jackets were able to add another run. Redshirt-freshman right fielder Andrew Stone hit an RBI-double, scoring designated hitter Ryan Mcdonough, giving the Yellow Jackets a 3-1 lead through three innings of play.
The Rams tied the game up in the bottom of the fourth inning at a 3-3 score by scoring two runs with two outs. The first of these runs came courtesy of a single by junior catcher Eddie Nottingham, which brought home junior left fielder Justin Smith. After sophomore shortstop Trenton Burgeen drew a walk, Rams sophomore second baseman Eric Sloper reached first base after an unforced error by the Yellow Jackets’ defense, which allowed Nottingham to reach home plate as an unearned run against Yellow Jackets junior starting pitcher Hunter Bradley.
The Rams now had momentum with the game tied at 3-3, as the Rams were looking to score the go-ahead run.
Shepherd added the final run later in the bottom of the sixth inning. Mountain East Conference player of the week Nick Atkinson hit an RBI-single, which again scored Nottingham, giving the Rams a 4-3 lead.
The Rams were able to play good defense in the top of the seventh and final inning, as sophomore relief pitcher Mitchell Johnson (W, 1-0) retired the first three batters he faced in the inning to preserve the 4-3 victory.
The second game had substantially more offense, but was decided long before the final out. The game started out badly for Shepherd after a grand slam homerun by Cline in the top of the second inning off Shepherd starting pitcher Wes Martin, a sophomore, who pitched just two innings.
With Cline’s big swing, the Yellow Jackets took a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets did not finish their second inning there, adding a fifth run off a sacrifice fly by Wright.
Shepherd did more than respond in the bottom of the second inning with a 10-run outburst. Adding to his MEC player of the week honors, Atkinson sparked the Rams run with a two RBI-single to get the scoring for the Rams started. Sophomore designated hitter Christian Hamel (2 RBI), Smith (one RBI), Heleine (3 RBI), junior second basemen Giovanni Torres (one RBI), and sophomore center fielder Brenton Doyle (one RBI) all got in on the second inning scoring onslaught for the Rams later on in the inning by driving in a combined eight more runs in the inning, as they blew the game open with a 10-5 lead after two innings of play.
Rams freshman relief pitcher Adam Miller (W, 1-2) won his first game of the season, as he held West Virginia State to one run in his four innings of action.
Shepherd made the lead 11-5 in the bottom of the fourth after Atkinson scored on a wild pitch on a Justin Smith groundout to the Yellow Jacket’s shortstop.
West Virginia State finally responded in the top of the sixth inning, but they could only muster one final run via solo home run from senior left fielder Travis Patterson.
The final run of the game was scored by Doyle when he was brought home thanks to an RBI-single from Smith.
The final score would wrap at 12-6 after the Yellow Jackets were not able to add a run in the top of the seventh inning.
With the two wins Monday, the Rams baseball appear to be hitting their stride, as they are currently on a six-game winning streak as they head into their next matchup. The next action for the Rams is another double-header on Friday, March 30, as they continue their road stretch vs. Concord University. Game one will start at 1 p.m., followed by game two at 3:30 p.m.
Vaughn Brewer is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org