Uncharacteristic woes in early struggles for Rams
By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
DUDLEY — The Shepherd Hill Rams have not gotten off to the start they imagined, dropping each of their first three contests. However, a look inside the numbers shows its not all bad.
The offense has been the greatest problem for the Rams, who are still waiting for the bats to wake up. Through their first three games, Shepherd Hill has not yet led a single game for so much as one inning, and their seventh-inning run on Friday afternoon snapped a stretch of 15 innings without pushing a run across the plate. The team has amassed just 10 hits so far, an average of 3.33 per game. The top hitters to this early point are Hayden Wildes (2-3), Anthony D’elia (1-3), Matt D’elia (1-3), Zack Magdis (2-6), Chris Kustigian (1-4), Mick Sullivan (2-10), and Evan Kokocinski (1-7).
In an effort to spark the lineup, the lineup has been shuffled some. The most productive change thus far has been at the top of the order. In the first two games, the leadoff position went 0-7 with four strikeouts, but Wildes was plugged into the lineup in that top spot, responding with a 2-3 game, scoring the team’s lone run in an 8-1 loss to Wachusett.
Whether its an issue of impatience at the plate or opposition pitching showing some command, the Rams have not supplemented their meager hitting with walks. Shepherd Hill has drawn just seven walks while fanning 28 times. This ratio is something that must be improved upon for the Rams to get back on track.
On the mound, Kustigian and Jake Schafer have been the most effective for Shepherd Hill. With the team down 8-3, Schafer came on in relief mid-inning in the season opener and did his job in keeping the Rams in the game. He worked the final four innings, limiting Nipmuc’s offense to just one more run, yielding one hit and scattering three walks. Schafer hasn’t worked since, but his 1.75 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in limited action is indicative that he may get some more time on the bump soon. Kustigian has appeared in two games, getting some late-inning work in against Hudson on Wednesday before making the start against Wachusett on Friday. Kustigian has posted a 2.63 ERA in his 5 1/3 innings on the mound, holding the opposition to two hits and three walks while striking out one.
Walks have been a problem for the Rams pitching staff as they’ve struggled for command of their pitches in the cold and raw weather of early April. Nate Carty, Jacob Holmgren, Jacob Murphy, and Pat Wilbur have issued a combined total of 15 walks in 9 2/3 innings, helping inflate an early season 3.31 WHIP.
Weather-depending, the Rams will have an opportunity to right the ship soon. Shepherd Hill is slated for a rematch with the Hudson Hawks on Tuesday morning as part of an annual April vacation tournament, while regular season play resumes next week with matchups against Tantasqua and Algonquin.