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College baseball: Catawba sweeps Eagles

Staff report

SALISBURY — For the second straight season, Catawba’s baseball team is being out-homered by the opposition.

Fortunately for the Indians, pitching is making a nice comeback at Newman Park. While Catawba hurlers labored to a 6.04 ERA a year ago, the staff now boasts a healthy 3.60 ERA, the best figure in the South Atlantic Conference. That’s a remarkable stat for a team that has played two-thirds of its games at hitter-friendly Newman Park.

Pitching once again provided most of the story at Newman Park on Sunday where Catawba beat Carson-Newman twice to finish a three-game weekend sweep. The Indians won the first one, 6-5, with Riley Myers (5-0) providing some sharp long relief work.

Catawba took the seven-inning second game of the twin bill, 6-0, with Hunter Shepherd (4-2) dominating on the mound. He made it to the seventh and allowed three hits. Peyton Williams, who earned his fifth save in the first game, got the last two outs of the nightcap to finish off the Eagles.

Shepherd has been a D-II Babe Ruth. He’s among the league leaders in wins and home runs and has developed into the sort of two-way star head coach Jim Gantt envisioned when the Indians signed him. Shepherd has been a solid lefty hurler for a while, but he’s getting his first chance as a regular bat in the lineup as a junior.

Catawba (23-7, 9-3) couldn’t move up from fourth place, as all of the SAC’s top teams took care of business over the weekend. But the 15th-ranked Indians are starting to click. They’ve been especially good at Newman Park where they are now 18-3.

Third baseman Jackson Raper was the offensive standout for the Indians. His bases-loaded walk with two outs in the sixth provided the deciding run in the opener. Then he smacked his third and fourth homers of the season to back Shepherd in the nightcap. Heath Mitchem and Henderson produced two hits each in the second game.

In the opener, Jeremy Simpson swatted an early two-run homer for the Indians, Joe Butts had a run-scoring double, and Lee Poteat contributed an RBI triple.

Catawba led 5-2  when Myers took the mound in the fourth inning to replace starter Sawyer Strickland. He allowed Carson-Newman (18-10, 2-6) to tie the game at 5-all, but he took control after that. He put up zeroes in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. Myers has 45 strikeouts in 45 innings and is tied for third in the SAC.

Catawba travels to Greenwood, S.C., to take on Lander at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.


NOTES: Bryce Butler, expected to be the starting center fielder, was injured on opening day, but finally was able to return to action on Sunday. … Bryan Ketchie, who won Saturday’s game to improve to 7-0, has a 1.77 ERA to rank second in the league. Shepherd’s 2.70 ERA also ranks in the top five in the SAC.  … Catawba displayed some power over the weekend with four long balls, but has still been out-homered for the season, 30-22.




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