By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Concord University’s winning streak came to an end Wednesday afternoon as the Mountain Lions split a doubleheader with WVIAC foe Shepherd at Anderson Field.
The Lions extended their streak to six games in the opener as they came from five runs down to earn a 6-5 victory. In the nightcap, the visiting Rams eked out an extra-inning 4-3 win to avenge their first conference loss of the season earlier in the day.
Concord coach Andrew Wright summed up the opener.
“We gave up some runs early that we shouldn’t have,” Wright said. “We gave up four runs after two outs, but I was confident in the fact our reliever was going to go in and throw strikes to give us an opportunity to kind of put something together offensively.
“I was proud of our guys because they didn’t quit. They had an opportunity to quit probably two or three times but they didn’t, so it was real good.”
Shepherd came off the bus much hotter than the first day of spring in Athens where the temperature was in the 40s and a steady 20 mile per hour wind blew out to right field.
The Rams scored two in the first, one in the fourth and two in the fifth to go ahead 5-0 against starting pitcher Ryan Weatherholtz.
Concord got its bats going in the fifth against Paul Hvozdovic, the reigning WVIAC Pitcher of the Week.
Joe Camp started things off with a sharp single up the middle and Jacob Mays singled to right to put runners on the corners. Charlie Goss then doubled off the fence in left-center to score both runs. Jerrod Groves lifted a fly to right that allowed Goss to tag and go to third. Enter Devin Smith who laced a line drive over the fence in left and suddenly the Mountain Lions were within a run of tying the game.
Josh Wenger tagged a one-out double to the left-center gap but was stranded.
Tim Baker took to the hill for Concord in the sixth, replacing Tim Leather who worked the fifth inning, relieving Weatherholtz.
In the Concord sixth Ryan Johnson got aboard on an error to open the frame and Andrew Siegel came on as a pinch runner. Siegel appeared to be picked off, but the throw from Shepherd first baseman Joey Miller sailed into left field and Siegel ended up at third.
Camp then reached on Shepherd’s third miscue of the inning, putting runners at first and third with no outs.
Brandon Costa laid down a beautiful bunt that got past Hvozdovic and proved good for a single that scored Siegel and moved Joe Monica, who came on as a pinch runner, to third and tied the game at five. Groves was hit by a pitch to load the bases and later, with two outs Brett Blevins’ infield hit scored Monica with the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.
Wright talked about how the Lions battled back, using extra base hits one inning and then small ball the next.
“We don’t teach one form or another,” Wright noted. “We feel that if we’re ready for whatever situation comes up then we’re going to win a lot of games, because if we’re relying solely on the three run homer, a lot of times that’s not going to work out.
“It was 5-4, we had to score a run, so we were doing whatever we could to score a run and then get another one because we had confidence in our closer.”
Shepherd threatened in the seventh. Chad Murphy drew a walk to lead off the inning, but Ryan Messina’s bunt was popped into the air and Baker made a diving catch and then tossed to first to double off Darius Jones, who was pinch running for Murphy.
“That (catch) saved the game. He (Baker) is an athlete. Basically he is a two-way guy for us, does some stuff in the outfield too, but he’s just very athletic and very competitive and that’s what you get out of guys like that,” Wright commented. “When there’s opportunities to make big plays, players like Chris (Baker) make them.”
The game ended with a called third strike on Messina and Concord had won its sixth consecutive game and Shepherd lost its first WVIAC contest of the year.
Baker (2-0) got the win, working two innings of one-hit ball. Hvozdovic suffered the loss as he pitched a complete game for Shepherd. He gave up six runs, four earned, on 11 hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Smith and Mays each had a pair of hits for the Mountain Lions.
Concord’s streak came to an end in the nightcap as the Rams took a 4-3 extra inning win.
The Lions took the early lead on Johnston’s two-run homer to left in the second inning.
Shepherd (9-10, 5-1) tied the game with a run in each the fifth and sixth before CU retook the lead in the sixth. The Rams forced extra innings by scoring a single run in the seventh and took the game on a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Brad Coffey in the top of the ninth.
Dustin Nuckels suffered the loss for the Mountain Lions as he allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning.
Concord (11-11, 6-3) returns to action this weekend at West Virginia State with a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday.