The Seton Hall baseball team defeated the Xavier Musketeers, 4-3, on Friday evening in the team’s Big East opener at Owen T. Carroll Field. The win was the Pirates’ fourth straight, improving the team’s record to 13-12-1 on the season.
In addition to the conference opener, the game took on added meaning, as it was the birthday of Head Coach Emeritus Mike Sheppard, the father of current head coach Rob Sheppard. And as if a win on such a day was not fitting enough, the win proved to be the 400th of Coach Sheppard’s career.
“It’s unique, I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity to both coach and play for my dad who was also the coach here. To win 400 on his birthday is definitely special,” Rob Sheppard said after sharing some birthday cake with the team.
The Pirates relied upon their senior ace Shane McCarthy to open up Big East play on the mound. The right-hander picked up the victory after going six innings, in which he gave up two earned runs and struck out five, despite not having his best stuff.
“What you saw today is classic Shane McCarthy,” Sheppard said. “He guts it out, battles all the way through, and gives you a quality start every time he’s on the mound. That’s a very good start for him to build off of against a very good hitting team in Xavier.”
The turning point for the Pirates came in the fifth inning, while trailing 3-2. With runners on second and third and two outs, sophomore Tyler Shedler-McAvoy battled to a full count against Xavier’s Allbry Major, who had traded in his outfield glove for his pitching glove in the sixth inning. Shedler-McAvoy lined the payoff pitch all the way to the wall in right-center; a two-run triple that gave Seton Hall the 4-3 lead.
“I was just looking for something good to hit over the plate. [Major] just came curveball after curveball after curveball, so I started to see it well out of his hand,” Shedler-McAvoy said. “I was just sitting dead-red curveball because, I knew he was coming back with it and did exactly what I needed to do. I just tried to do what I could to help the team.”
Sheppard spoke of the emergence Shedler-McAvoy has enjoyed this season after the game.
“We put [Shedler-McAvoy] in a position in the lineup where he can drive some runs in and he’s done a really good job of that,” Sheppard said. “He started to come on out in Hawaii and he’s continued to do that. Anytime you can lengthen out your lineup and have guys in the front, middle, and back do a job and drive some runs in that’s when you’re going to have success, and he did a really good job for us today.”
After taking the first game of the series, the Pirates will look to win the series on Saturday, April 14, with a doubleheader scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Nick Santoriello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.