The Shepherd Rams baseball team (0-4) got outplayed on both sides of the plate in its 16-7 road loss to the University of South Carolina (USC) Aiken Pacers (3-1) in Aiken, South Carolina, on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 8, in the first game of a three-game series.
Pitching and fielding have been large themes for the Rams so far in this early portion of the season, a theme that continued against the Pacers.
The Pacers would capitalize off of the Rams’ mistakes early and often in this one, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. USC Aiken senior first baseman Brian Parreira provided the highlight of the inning by launching a three-run homerun in the bottom of the first inning off of Shepherd freshman starting pitcher Adam Miller that stretched the Pacers’ lead to a 4-0 score.
Redshirt junior Philip Watcher blasted a solo-shot homerun of his own off of Miller as well in the inning, increasing the Pacers’ lead to 5-0 before the bottom of the first inning ended.
Despite facing an early deficit, however, the Rams would not fold in the towel just yet.
A two-RBI single to center field by Shepherd sophomore second baseman Eric Sloper in the top of the second inning allowed time for sophomore shortstop Trenton Burgreen and junior left fielder Reid Entsminger to come in to score, trimming the Pacers’ lead to two with a 5-3 score.
This would be as close as the Rams would get, however, to the Pacers’ lead, as the Pacers responded with another five-run inning in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the Rams away for good.
Parriera finished off the fourth inning onslaught by recording the final two RBIs of his five-RBI outing with another homerun off of Miller, with this one being a two-run homerun.
The second homerun by Parriera gave the Pacers a 10-3 lead, but the Rams kept on fighting.
Sophomore catcher Christian Hamel brightened up the Rams’ spirits with his three-run homerun in the top of the fifth inning that cut the Pacers’ lead to four with a 10-6 score.
Hamel also had a homerun in the top of the seventh inning that made the score 11-7 in favor of the Pacers.
Maybe, just maybe, things were starting to turn around for the Rams. Unfortunately, however, the Rams pitching woes would continue, erasing the impact of these homeruns that their offense provided them.
For the third time in the game, the Pacers would score five runs in one inning. The third and final time it happened came in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Junior shortstop Chandler Rogers of USC Aiken was walked with the bases loaded by Shepherd, allowing redshirt-senior right fielder Nile Goings to come in to score, stretching the Pacers’ lead to five with a 12-7 score.
Senior third baseman Daulton Weeks ended the Rams’ misery with a three-run homerun to end the inning, putting the Pacers up by a 16-7 score.
USC Aiken senior starting pitcher Christian Aragon did not have his best game, but he did not necessarily have to on a day where his offense performed as well as it did. Aragon pitched five innings, allowed six runs on ten hits, walked one batter, and struck out four Rams on the afternoon.
The Rams committed three errors on the day, which has unfortunately become a devastating trend for them. Against the Pacers and future opponents, fielding is definitely an area that the Pacers will have to execute better in.
It was a really tough afternoon for Miller, who fell to 0-2 on the season as a starting pitcher. Miller lasted just four innings against the Pacers, surrendering 10 runs on seven hits, while walking two batters as well.
Miller had just one strikeout for the Rams and displayed difficulty locating his pitches, as three of them went down as wild pitches.
Thursday afternoon’s game was the first of three games at USC Aiken for Shepherd. The Rams will play the Pacers again on Friday afternoon, Feb. 9, at 4 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org