The Shippensburg University baseball team is beginning to mold into midseason form.
In the first two series of the season, the Raiders failed to find their groove offensively, with five runs being the most they could muster in a game. However, in Saturday and Sunday’s home-and-home contests versus Shepherd University, which resulted in a 2-2 series split; SU may have flipped the script on its batting woes.
And it was thanks in part to one player: Ben Werkheiser. Werkheiser’s weekend consisted of an 8 for 12 line, including five bombs, seven RBIs and six runs scored.
Game 1 saw only four knocks in the hitting column for the Raiders (3-7, 3-5 PSAC East) but those four hits came in small, yet mighty fashion, with the Raiders taking the 5-3 opening game victory.
Following a Rams’ open-inning homerun, Werkhesier woke up the SU bats, blasting a homer of his own opposite field, his first of the season. Moments later, after Lake Lloyd and Justin Darden got on base, junior Chase Zurawski cruised his first homerun over the left field fence, giving SU the 4-1 advantage.
Shepherd (3-5, 3-5 PSAC East) found the scoreboard again in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly. However, Werkheiser had other plans, repeating his success at the plate in the bottom of the frame by sending another ball into orbit (a solo blast) and crawling the SU lead back up to three.
Graduate student Kyle Lysy (1-2), who took the Game 1 nod, re-grouped after a shaky beginning and tossed three shutout innings. The Rams would not beat Lysy again until the sixth inning on an RBI single. Lysy completed his outing with a respectable six innings, scattering three hits, two earned runs (three total) and tied his season-high nine strikeouts.
Sophomore Noah Nabholz and freshman Austin Labarre closed the door, combining for two scoreless innings.
Come Game 2, the Raiders plated three runs but did not receive any support from the pitching staff, evolving into an 11-3 defeat.
Redshirt-sophomore Kiernan Higgins (0-3) continued his opening-season struggles on the mound. While ringing up a career-high 12 batters, Higgins went for six innings of work and allowed just three hits. But it was his control that got the best of him, dealing five base-on-balls and five wild pitches, resulting in six runs total (five earned).
Freshman Ethan Miller relieved Higgins and scrambled to find outs. In a third of an inning, Miller was teed up for five earned runs on four walks. He also notched four strikeouts.
In the batter’s box, the Raiders saw all their scoring come in the fourth inning, with the freshman trio of Morgan Wyatt, Jafari Williams and Jackson LoBianco responsible for all three RBIs. Wyatt brought in the first runner on a walk, Williams notched an RBI on a fielder’s choice and LoBianco duplicated Williams’ at-bat with another fielder’s choice.
Game 3 was an all-around effort from the Raiders, sprinting to a controlling 7-2 win on the road.
Graduate student Jordan Yoder got the scoring rolling with an RBI single in the first. Darden followed suit with an RBI double in left field gap, making it an early 2-0 margin.
Shepherd countered with a run of their own, which held for the second and third innings. Werkheiser got back in the scoring table with an RBI single in the fourth, followed by his third homerun of the weekend (a two-run shot) in the top of the sixth.
Yoder marked as the second SU homerun of the game in the seventh frame, a solo blast, before LoBianco contributed his second RBI of the weekend, ending the game at 7-2.
Freshman Kaleb Sophy (1-1) remained on the bump the whole way through, tossing his first collegiate complete game. His pitching line went to the tune of one earned run, scattering three hits and struck out a season and career-high 11. Sophy also walked six Rams.
Game 4 swung back in Shepherd’s favor, resulting in an 8-5 outcome.
The Raiders tallied nine knocks, with Werkheiser pacing SU with two more solo blasts, one in the fourth inning and one in the fifth. Redshirt-sophomore Andres Garcia lent two RBIs to the cause in the fourth inning as well, on a double. Zurawski concluded the Raiders’ bevy of weekend runs with an RBI single, one from his three-hit performance in Game 4.
Freshman Gabe Stotler, coming off a complete game shutout, totaled three innings before exiting due to injury concerns. His afternoon included one hit allowed, one earned run and six ring ups.
Austin Labarre, making his second relief appearance on the weekend, was chalked up for five earned runs and five free passes in two innings of work. He garnered the loss.
The Raiders will look to improve their 3-7 record Friday when they travel to Lock Haven University for Games 1 and 2 of a four-game weekend series. They will return to Fairchild Field Saturday, with first pitches scheduled for noon and 2:30 p.m.