SHEPHERDSTOWN — After allowing eight straight hits to begin the second inning, Shepherd pitcher Brian Martin was replaced. The lowly Big Blues of oft-beaten Bluefield already had nine runs and were well on their way to a 16-4 win over the Rams in the opener of a conference doubleheader on a weather-perfect day at Fairfax Field.
Shepherd would return the favor in the nightcap, taking an 11-2 win behind pitcher Paul Hvozdovic’s fourth straight win.
But Bluefield had come to Shepherdstown with only five wins. The overall record was 5-20. To maintain its course in the North Division of the WVIAC, Shepherd needed to beat the win-starved Big Blues. And beat them twice, the same as the teams in Shepherd’s division had already done.
It didn’t happen.
The trouble could have been predicted. It was the afternoon when the Shepherdstown Elementary School brings a large number of its students to see the Rams play baseball. It is an annual field trip for the youngsters. For some reason, Shepherd always plays poorly in front of the children, who come to the metal stands after practicing cheers, including “Let’s go Rams”, and stomp their feet in unison trying to drum up a Rams’ rally.
It was Bluefield that battered the Rams, strafing Martin (1-plus inning, 10 hits and seven earned runs) and replacements Bryan DiRosario and Daniel Castro for 21 hits and four home runs. Tyler Frazier went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and Rusty Rainey had two home runs and three RBIs.
Shepherd’s inconsequential bright moments included home runs from Ryan Messina and Kyle Porter that accounted for its four runs.
By the time the second game started, the elementary school students were long gone.
Shepherd savaged Bluefield pitching for 14 hits and showed the Big Blues effective pitching from Hvozdovic and Ryan Pansch. Hvozdovic improved his record to 7-4 with five innings of three-hit, five-strikeout pitching. Pansch fanned fourth in his two scoreless innings.
Messina crashed two more home runs and went 4-for-4 with 12 total bases and six RBIs. Michael Lott also homered and had two RBIs and Jake Cook drove in two runs as the Rams saw their WVIAC record settle at 12-6.
Shepherd held its tenuous position in the North Division standings, remaining in second place. If the Rams don’t reach the conference tournament by finishing at least fourth in their division, they can look to the day when Bluefield spanked them once and know that loss cost them dearly.