HOUSTON — More often than not this season, when things have broken bad against the Rice Owls late in the game, things have benefited the opposing team. Through 9.2 innings and tied at two, the Owls managed to ward off the bad luck. On the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the tenth inning, Rice’s Darryn Sheppard managed to put it away for the entire day, and in the process even the series against Louisiana Tech with a 3-2 win.
” I just wanted to help the team win in whatever way I could,” said Sheppard. “Luckily for me I was put in that position and I succeeded.”
“The last pitch he popped up,” said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. “This time he got inside and on top of the ball, and he crushed it. It was a bullet. It’s nice when you don’t have to mess around, and that it was clean. I like clean.”
The previous popped up at-bat had been one of Sheppard’s few blemishes on a day that saw the first baseman go three for five. Graham confessed to not feeling any need to advise Sheppard before his at bat.
“Not a word, said Graham, describing his entire pep talk. “Darryn was ready to go. He’d already had a couple of hits, so I guess he was feeling pretty confident. He drilled that one. It was a bullet.”
Sheppard, who has pulled himself up from a slow start to now batting .279 with 20 RBI, didn’t seem in need of a pep talk. His three for five day at the plate contributed to the 19 combined hits recorded in the game.
“I felt pretty locked in the whole day,” said Sheppard. “I started off two for two. I dropped my shoulder on two pitches and popped them up. On that last bat I was looking for a pitch that I could drive, and I didn’t want to pop it up again. That was one of my main thoughts throughout the process.”
The back and forth than stalemate nature of the game had left Sheppard tired enough to voice his desire for a quick ending.
“Charlie Warren and I were actually talking about it. We were like ‘man, I don’t want to go to another inning.’ We both were saying that we need someone to hit a walk-off. That would get the team going in the right direction. Luckily, it was me.”