SHEPHERDSTOWN — After it scored runs in only two different innings in splitting a conference doubleheader the day before against Shepherd, league-leading and nationally-ranked Seton Hill turned to a different tact on Sunday in a single game against the Rams.
The Griffins turned loose their running game.
They had stolen six bases through the first seven innings. Even when the Rams had a Seton Hill runner picked off first, they couldn’t avoid further red faces when the Griffin escaped a rundown and was safe back at first.
Seton Hill had shown why it tops the WVIAC, beating Shepherd, 10-6, with methods other than the staples of hitting, pitching, or fielding in moving its overall record to 33-11.
Even though the Rams (now 18-8 in the league) had scored the game’s first two runs, Seton Hill was ahead, 5-2, by the third inning against Shepherd starting pitcher, Brandon Coffey.
When Coffey went out, Shepherd caught up as reliever Ryan Pansch retired nine of the first 10 men he faced.
A three-run Shepherd sixth made it 5-5. Seton Hill had made two errors, helping the Rams get unearned runs to tie. More runs could have been had except T.J. Weisenburg stranded two runners with his inning-ending groundout against reliever Brad Schnelle.
Pansch, who had pitched two scoreless innings the day before, was in his fourth inning of work when Brendan Constantino homered and the Griffins shrewdly stole their way to another run.
With runners at first and second and two outs, Pansch faced Jackson Boyd. Boyd had already batted three times. He struck out all three times, fouling off only one pitch with all his futile swings.
Boyd fell behind in the count.
Seton Hill would try to steal a run. Nick Sell would attempt to steal third and hope Shepherd catcher Cody Bumbaugh would throw the baseball into left field.
The strategy worked perfectly.
Bumbaugh threw past third baseman Mark McCormick and Sell strolled home giving the Griffins a 7-5 lead.
Boyd struck out for the fourth time.
Shepherd strung together three singles to make it 7-6, but Schnelle fanned McCormick with two runners aboard.
Constantino homered off Brian Martin (7.01 ERA and .393 batting average against by opponents), leading the way to a three-run ninth that was only stopped by reliever Tyler Thomas.
Stolen bases and highly effective base running had won the game for the Griffins. And kept them in first place in the conference’s North Division, and more importantly, firmly in the running for an at-large bid to the Atlantic Regional if they don’t win the eight-team WVIAC tournament.