Shepherd Softball Unable to Find Offense Against #21 West Chester

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The Rams, pictured here against Millersville, could not find the spark they needed offensively in their double-header against the Cardinals.

The Rams (25-16) took one of two games in a home double-header against the West Chester Golden Rams, ranked twenty-first in the nation. In game one, the Rams won a low-scoring pitching duel by a 3-1 score. Game two proved to be a different story, as the Rams got shuout 5-0.

Outfielder Sarah Walasavage scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning after a throwing error by the Rams’ third baseman, giving the Golden Rams an early 1-0 lead. Utility player Sara Ercoloni reached first base on the errant throw.

That unearned run would be the only run the Golden Rams would be able to score off of senior starting pitcher Tara Hanson (W, 12-4). Hanson (7.0 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 1 SO) shut down the Golden Rams’ bats for large portions of the game. She was able to get past the unearned run in the first inning, not letting it phase her.

Hanson was able to forget about the error also in large part thanks to the Rams’ offense bouncing back to give the Rams the lead. Sophomore second baseman/shortstop Morgan Cox delivered a sacrifice fly to center field that brought in freshman infielder Debbie Stuart to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning.

The Rams would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Sophomore shortstop/outfielder Kaitlyn Konopka delivered a RBI single to the Golden Rams’ pitcher, allowing sophomore outfielder/second baseman Ariana Ramirez to score to give the Rams a 2-1 lead.

Sophomore first/third baseman Connor Gilligan made the lead 3-1 with her RBI single to second base, with Konopka scoring on the play.

Brooke Harner (L, 6-3) took the loss for the Golden Rams. Harner (4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 SO) did not have her best performance of the season, but she cannot be entirely to blame. Her offense gave her one run of support, with it being an unearned run.

Things would turn around for the Golden Rams in game two, however, as their bats woke up to match their stellar pitching in a 5-0 shutout of the Rams.

Amanda Houck (W, 22-2) as her record suggests, was simply too much for the Rams to tangle with. Houck (7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 4 SO) was in the zone all game long, as she did not allow a single run by the Rams.

Unlike Harner, Houck received great run support. Also, sophomore starting pitcher Lori Sturgill (L, 5-3) could not keep pace with Houck. Sturgill gave up 10 hits to the Golden Rams, but was only charged with allowing one earned run. This was due to the Rams committing three errors that ended up contributing to the shutout.

The first of these unearned runs occurred when the Rams’ catcher made an errant throw to allow outfielder Madison Kelly to get to third base off of a bunt by utility player Bri Garber. Ercolani then hit a sacrifice fly to right field that gave enough time for Kelly to come in and score the unearned run to give the Golden Rams a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning.

In the top of the fourth inning, the Rams fell apart, allowing three runs. An error by the Rams’ shortstop ended up allowing three runs to score. The first of these came off the bat of Kelly, who hit a sacrifice fly to right field that gave outfielder Shannon Gray plenty of time to score to give the Golden Rams a 2-0 lead.

The lead would grow to 4-0 for the Golden Rams when Garber singled to first base and advanced to second base on the throw. In the meantime, outfielder Sarah Byham and catcher/first baseman Heidi McCollester capitalized off of another errant throw by the Rams and built a commanding 4-0 lead.

To cap off the day, the Rams had another self-inflicting error, this time in the top of the seventh inning when infielder Courtney Stump singled to center field and reached second base with another off target throw by the Rams’ defense. In the process, Ercolani rounded third base and came in to score the fifth and final run for the Golden Rams to preserve the 5-0 victory.

Sturgill pitched all seven innings, and despite allowing many hits, never really got the support she needed from her defense. Clearly, this is a performance the Rams will want to forget about quickly.

Right now, the Rams (11-9 MEC) still sit in first place in the North Division in the Mountain East Conference standings, with Urbana (11-11 MEC) close behind.

On Saturday afternoon, the Rams travel to West Liberty for a double-header that begins at 2 p.m.

Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at abrack02@rams.shepherd.edu