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Hornets shut out Panthers

By Jerry Holsworth - sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University pitcher Cory Nelson pitched a complete game shutout to lead his Hornets to a 4-0 win Sunday against USA South opponent Ferrum.

"We had a really miserable day to play," Shenandoah University manager Kevin Anderson said. "It was cold and we had 20 to 30 mile-per-hour winds. I thought that both pitchers were outstanding. [Tyler] Easterly for Ferrum, and Corey Nelson for us were throwing strikes. Fortunately, we were able to get some runs early."

The Shenandoah senior's performance and seven Panther errors were the key factor in Shenandoah's (7-4, 3-1 in conference) sweep of Ferrum (9-5, 2-2) in a two-game series this weekend. The Hornets won 10-6 on Saturday.

"When you have as many errors as you have hits, you know that it's going to be a long day," Panthers manager Darren Hodges said. "You keep giving a good team like Shenandoah opportunities like that, you know it's going to bite you."

The only inning where Nelson showed any sign of allowing a run was the second when the Panthers were able to load the bases with one out. Nelson responded to the challenge by striking out Peter Byron and getting Ferrum leadoff hitter Jason Parker out on an infield pop up to end the inning without allowing a run.

"That was a big strikeout with the bases loaded," Anderson said. "We played pretty good defense behind him, but the story of the game was really Corey Nelson."

During his other seven innings on the mound, Nelson scattered six hits while striking out nine and only walking one Ferrum batter.

Nelson got a lot of help from his defense, which limited their errors to just three, and turned a double play in the top of the ninth after leadoff battle Matt Reynolds advanced on a walk. Left fielder Corbin Lucas and center fielder Jake Pendergraft also provided defensive support by erasing two long fly balls in the seventh that looked like sure extra base hits by making running catches on the warning track.

While Nelson and the Hornets defense were holding the Panthers scoreless, Shenandoah took advantage of Ferrum errors in the first two innings to score all the runs they needed.

"Nelson really pitched through some tight spots today," Hodges said. "This was the first time we're seen him on the mound. He's a great competitor. Shenandoah always has a good ball club. This is a tough place to win a ball game."

Hornet short stop Kurt Krout got things started early for Shenandoah by smashing a one-out double down the left-field line in the bottom of the first. Krout followed that by stealing third. The Hornets junior scored Shenandoah's first run of the game when Pendergraft advanced to first on a fielding error by the Ferrum shortstop.

But it was the second inning when the Hornets exploded for three runs thanks to three Panther errors.

"We made three errors too," Anderson said. "The field is just so hard at this time of year, and on a day like this it's really not a good day for playing defense."

With two outs in the inning, Dan Powers reached first on a throwing error by Panthers third baseman Daniel Alvarez. Lucas singled to right to send Powers to second. Both Hornet runners advanced on a wild pitch by Easterly.

After Mile Minch walked to load the bases, a rare twin errors by Panther second baseman Reynolds, who bobbled a grounder by Joey Donofrio then threw wildly to first, scored both Powers and Lucas.

Shenandoah's final run came when Minch scored while Donofrio attempted to steal second.

"It looked as through we were a little tentative out there on defense," Hodges said.

With the Hornets up 4-0, both pitchers settled down. Easterly, who also pitched a complete game, was victimized by four Panther errors in the first two innings. The Panthers junior allowed just four hits during his eight innings on the mound, struck out three Hornet batters, and gave up just two walks. Only one of the four Shenandoah runs was earned.

Nelson, despite the conditions, was able to get through the game with 114 pitches.

"When it comes to pulling pitchers, we really don't look at overall pitch count," Anderson said. "We look at extended innings. When a pitcher has several innings where he's pitched more than 20 pitches we start to think about putting in a new pitcher. Corey only had one inning like that today, and it was in the second."

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