By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University's Nolan Overby headed into this baseball season expected to make an impact -- on the school's junior-varsity program.
Instead, Overby put in the work to force his way into the varsity lineup as the team's primary designated hitter. On Wednesday against visiting Messiah, Overby put on a power display that helped lead the Hornets to an 11-3 victory at Bridgeforth Field.
Overby clubbed two home runs and hit two long fly-ball outs, all to left field, to finish with four runs batted in for Shenandoah.
"You've got to tip your hat to Nolan Overby -- what a great story," Hornets coach Kevin Anderson said. "Here's a guy that started the year on the JV team and took advantage of some inter-squad scrimmages -- never whined, never complained -- he got an opportunity to pinch hit. We put him at the DH in the seven-hole for awhile, now he's hitting in our three-hole and carrying our baseball team."
Shenandoah (19-5) got going early against the Falcons. Messiah coach Pat Lightle, a Winchester resident who's made the nearly two-hour commute to Mechanicsburg, Pa., for two years now, knew what his team was up against facing the nationally-ranked Hornets. Lightle had an idea, though -- to hopefully throw off the Hornets' timing at the plate, he started soft-tossing junior right-hander Peter Fisher.
It didn't work. Billy Arens led off the bottom of the first inning with a single and Corbin Lucas followed with another, bringing up Overby who promptly crushed a first-pitch offering over the left-field fence. Overby didn't get credit for a three-run shot, since Lucas was called out for missing second base.
"I've been seeing the ball well all season, and I just want to hit the ball hard," Overby said.
Arens plated another run in the second with an RBI single, and in the third Overby got another crack at Fisher. Leading off the inning, Overby parked another Fisher off-speed pitch over the fence in left for his third home run of the season. He finished with a 2-for-4 day with four RBIs.
"The first two they left up, elevated, and I just took advantage of them," Overby said. "The other two, I just didn't get the whole bat on the ball and just kind of popped them up and the wind kind of took them a little farther."
Fisher's day was done after Overby's second blast, but the Hornets scored two more runs in the third on J.J. McDaniel's run-scoring groundout and an RBI single from Daniel Freshley.
Staked to a 6-0 lead, Shenandoah starting pitcher Phillip Morse made his first mistake in the top of the fourth when he left a pitch up to the Falcons' Jacob Sprengle, who did his best Overby impersonation with a solo homer to left to end the shutout.
Morse, a junior right-hander, escaped further trouble in that inning with help from a double play, then sailed through the next three innings. In the eighth, he walked leadoff batter Joseph Saufley and hit the next two batters to load the base before exiting with seven-plus innings pitched, his longest outing of the season.
"I was just trying to throw strikes -- strike one, strike two -- I really wasn't trying to throw hard," Morse said. "The last couple outings, like I said, I've been trying to overpower too much."
Anderson liked what he saw from Morse, who earned the win to improve to 3-1 this season after allowing three earned runs off seven hits and two walks while fanning four.
"Phil's really working hard on trying to take his game to the next level, and what I mean by that is his ability to throw three pitches for strikes and get outs with all three pitches," Anderson said. "He struggled with his change-up today, but fortunately he had outstanding command with his fastball. He pitched away in the zone, which is why there were so many assists by the second baseman today, and he mixed in his breaking ball."
By the time Morse left with the bases loaded, the Hornets had built their lead to 11-1. Sprengle promptly cut into that advantage with a bases-loaded single to right off SU reliever Brandon Corbin to score Saufley, but Derek Drake was gunned down by the relay to home plate.
"That was stupid," Lightle said. "I'll take the blame on that one."
Messiah's Ben Sollenberger added one more run by scoring on a wild pitch, before Corbin got out of the inning.
Sprengle and Isaiah Shipman finished with two hits each to lead Messiah (8-7).
"He's doing a great job with that program," Anderson said of Lightle, in his second year leading the Falcons. "He's changing the culture. They'll probably win their conference."
For SU, Mikey Paul continued his torrid season at the plate with a 4-for-5 day. Arens added three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs and Freshley had three hits and an RBI for the Hornets. Shenandoah battered Messiah for 16 hits in the game.
"Kevin's a great guy. I've known Kevin since he was back at James Madison and I was at Coastal Carolina," Lightle said. "We played against each other all the time. He's got a good club. They're better than us, no doubt, they're better."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>