SHEPHERDSTOWN— With its wealth of hitters, Pit-Johnstown shelled Shepherd starting pitcher Paul Hvozdovic for eight hits and six runs in the first two innings of Saturday’s crucial WVIAC game at Fairfax Field.
Shepherd spent the gloomy, rain-threatened afternoon trying to overcome the early-game bad fortune it had seen. It finally did. And then the Rams scored twice in the ninth to haul away a much-needed 8-7 win.
There were Ryan Messina’s two-run homer, Nathan Minnich’s two-run single, and Aaron Scoville’s two RBIs . . . and the Rams had it tied at 6-6 after five innings.
Hvozdovic had blanked the Mountain Cats in the middle innings.
Freshman right-hander Matt Copley took Shepherd’s pitching reins in the sixth. And he threw strikes — not walking nor hitting any Mountain Cats — for three innings as the scheduled seven-inning game rolled along still deadlocked at 6-6.
In the Pitt-Johnstown ninth, Copley bent. But just a little. A lead-off bunt single by Andy Ebersole and a sacrifice bunt had the go-ahead run at second . . . when Rams’ coach Wayne Riser brought on senior Andrew Gallant to replace Copley. Jeff Campbell’s single had base runners at first and third for Zach Vignero, who delivered a sacrifice fly and a one-run lead was returned to the Mountain Cats.
Even though it had successfully scattered Pitt-Johnstown’s once-impressive six-run lead, Shepherd looked as if it were going to fall in a one-run verdict.
But let not your blue and gold heart be troubled. Shepherd had still another comeback waiting for the pitching-poor Mountain Cats.
In the Rams’ ninth, Nash Hutter had a lead-off single. He was successfully sacrificed to second. Travis Sluger came through with a single . . . but pinch-runner Bryan DiRosario could only reach third.
Kenny Beyer lifted a shallow sacrifice fly to center and DiRosario slid head-first just in front of catcher Kyle Morrow’s late tag. It was a 7-7 game. But not for long. Sluger had smartly moved to second on the sacrifice fly.
Brandon Coffey lined a hit just over the leap of shortstop Nathan Pope . . . and Sluger fled home with the second run of the second extra inning . . . with the Rams cascading out of their dugout to mob Coffey whose clutch hit had brought an 8-7 win.
After it had to forfeit three of its thought-to-be conference wins, Shepherd needed every win it could wring out of its few remaining WVIAC games. And with Copley’s three shutout innings and the steady run-production from enough of its batters there was a victory at the end of the bumpy Saturday afternoon.