Shepherd sweeps Fairmont State, captures MEC North Title with 9-4 and 8-2 victories in Mountain East Conference play

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Rams pitcher Ryan Potts pictured at a previous Rams home game (Credit: Shepherd University Athletics Department)

The Rams’ came into Sunday’s MEC action winners of five straight and continued the late season momentum with convincing 9-4 and 8-2 wins which saw them officially take home the Mountain East Conference North division title. With the two road wins the Rams seem to be peaking at the right time and now boast a season record of 34-13 including a 26-5 record against MEC opponents.

The Ram offense came out hot in the opener of the double header with a quick four run outburst in the top of the first inning. Sophomore first baseman Christian Hamel kicked off the scoring with an RBI single into left field that brought home sophomore center fielder Brenton Doyle, and three batters later junior left fielder Reid Entsminger was hit by a pitch which forced Hamel home for a quick two runs. Then, in a wild sequence started by a wild pitch Rams designated hitter Brian McCourt and Entsminger made it around home as the they found themselves up 4-0.

The Shepherd defense led by sophomore starting pitcher Mitchell Johnson kept the Fighting Falcons’ bats at bay until the bottom of the fourth. That was after Rams junior catcher Eddie Nottingham scored on a fielders choice and McCourt got home on a sac-fly attempt by sophomore shortstop Trenton Burgeen to grow the lead to 6-0 in the top of the third inning.

Similar to the Rams opening inning, Fairmont State got four runs on the board in rapid fashion in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was started off with a solo home run by center fielder Austin Norman.

First baseman Tyler Skidmore added the second run on an RBI triple from shortstop Jacob Goodman, and with runners on second and third base, left fielder Ben Myers hit a two RBI double into deep center field which scored second baseman Darrin Zombro and third baseman Joe LaRocca.

That would be the last offense the Rams would give up the rest of the game as they still led 6-4 after four innings. The final three runs for Shepherd came in the fifth inning with two more RBI singles by sophomore second baseman Eric Sloper and junior right fielder Nick Atkinson. Sloper’s RBI single was hit to center field and was deep enough for Entsminger to score from

third. Atkinson’s two RBI singled down the third base line which allowed Burgeen to score from second and Sloper from first base.

The 9-4 final score was starting pitcher Johnson’s fourth win of the season as he threw a complete game, allowing nine total hits. Fairmont State used four pitchers to no avail and Caleb Lutjens took the loss, his second on the season in the losing effort.

The late game was more of the same as the bats kept connecting against Fighting Falcons pitchers. It didn’t take long for the scoring to get underway in the late game as Rams Atkinson hit a solo home run to right field before the side was retired by Fighting Falcons Starting pitcher Luke Paull.

For a brief moment in the bottom of the first inning Fairmont State had control of the lead after a two RBI single down the left field line from Darrin Zombro which scored teammates Autin Norman and left fielder Cole Smith. With the lead at 2-1 after one inning, the Fighting Falcons couldn’t produce another run the rest of the game as they saw their lead disappear the next at bat in the top of the second inning.

Rams junior third baseman Giovanni Torres singled to center field which brought home McCourt for an RBI as the game got tied up at 2-2.

The tie was broken by the Rams in the top of the third inning thanks to Doyle scoring on a fielding error by Falcon shortstop Chris Green during Nottingham’s second at bat. The Rams side was retired after that and they didn’t add another run until the top of the fifth when Paull surrendered another RBI double to left center field from Hamel, bringing home Doyle again to put the lead at 4-2. Paull was later subbed out in favor of Mark McKee in the sixth inning.

McKee allowed a quick two runs in his one-third inning of action from an RBI single by Sloper that saw Entsminger score as well as Burgeen scoring off a wild pitch just a batter later as the score jumped to 6-2.

Houston Morris was the second relief pitcher to come in for Fairmont State for the remaining two-thirds innings of action in the sixth, and he too allowed two runs across. Doyle secured his third hit of the game with a two RBI single into right field which brought Sloper and Torres

around home for the seventh and eighth runs for the Rams which brought the double header total to 17.

The selected starting pitcher for the late game, freshman Adam Miller picked up the win which brings his season record to 4-2 with his six innings of action that saw him give up nine hits but only two earned runs, not to mention the six K’s.

All in all the Fighting Falcons employed four pitchers against Ram batters in the late game, but none could provide an answer

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