Just four years ago, Matt McCarty was pitching and playing shortstop for the Shepherd Rams as the team tried to win the 2009 WVIAC baseball tournament championship during a rainy weekend in Johnstown, Pa.
Point Stadium had an artificial turf field, so the tournament progressed along to the final game where the Rams got the victory needed to win the conference championship. It was Shepherd’s second league title in six seasons. And it qualified the team for the NCAA Division II regional tournament that was just a step removed from the College World Series.
McCarty helped the Rams with his glove, arm, and bat to get through a tournament where they were a definite underdog.
In the 2009 season, McCarty had pitched in 17 games while starting 15 times. His record was 8-6 and in his 80 innings of work he had struck out 94 and pitched to an earned run average of 3.94.
As a hitter and position player, McCarty had batted .282 while often batting leadoff in Riser’s order. He was 29-for-103, scoring 31 runs and hitting three homers. McCarty only struck out 16 times.
Shepherd couldn’t win the regional event, missing a possible first-ever Division II World Series trip.
The next year, McCarty graduated from Shepherd.
During the summer of 2010, he was a coach with the Winchester Royals of the collegiate Valley Baseball League.
The next spring, he became an assistant at Shepherd, basically working for the coach he had just recently played for, Wayne Riser.
In the summer of 2011, McCarty was a coach with the North Adams Steeplecats in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Back at Shepherd as an assistant for the 2012 baseball season, McCarty was a part of another WVIAC tournament championship when the Rams, who would finish the season with a 33-19 overall record, waded through the other seven teams in Johnstown to get another WVIAC title.
This past summer, McCarty stayed closer to home and was a coach with the Front Royal Cardinals of the Valley Baseball League.
When the school year began at Shepherd in August, McCarty was back for another term as Riser’s assistant coach.
But then Riser resigned in September. He left Shepherd, where he had both an undergraduate and graduate degree, to take a head coaching position at another college.
McCarty was offered the Shepherd head coaching position on an interim basis. He accepted.
And in a matter of four years he had gone from a Shepherd player helping win the 2009 conference championship through being an assistant coach with the 2012 conference champions to being elevated to the head coaching position.
As one of the youngest head coaches in collegiate baseball, McCarty should know the WVIAC, its coaches, and its teams.
His first team is seen as second-best in the seven-team North Division of the conference. Seton Hill, which was the league’s best during the 2012 regular-season, has been the coaches’ pre-season selection as this year’s conference champion.
McCarty had success as a Shepherd player.
One of the Rams’ conference titles was achieved with him playing a major role as an infielder/pitcher.
Now McCarty is Shepherd’s head coach.
And he’ll be seeing the season through the young leadership eyes of the coach of a team making an adjustment from a longtime coach to a first-year boss.