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Jasper Adams, Ithaca get the better of Fred Shepard, Amherst in NCAA baseball tournament

  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.

    Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College
    Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.

    Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College
    Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.

    Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College
    Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.

    Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College
    Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.
  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Amherst College starting pitcher Fred Shepard delivers a pitch against Ithaca Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.
  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.
  • Courtesy Benjamin Badua Amherst College<br/>Ithaca starting pitcher Jasper Adams delivers a pitch against Amherst College Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional game in Auburn, N.Y. Ithaca won 3-2.

AUBURN, N.Y. — Jasper Adams and Fred Shepard had to wait seven years for a rematch. For Adams and his Ithaca College Bombers, the wait was well worth it.

Adams and Shepard, former teammates at Amherst Regional High School, met on opposite sides of the baseball diamond in the NCAA Division III Auburn Regional on Friday night. Adams, starting for his top-seeded Bombers, came out on the better side of a 3-2 victory against Shepard and sixth-seeded Amherst.

“That was a little difficult, but you want to win,” Adams said of playing Shepard. “It’s a little bit strange to play against somebody you know and you like and you played against before, but in the end it was a really good experience.”

Despite getting the loss, Shepard agreed it was fun to play against a familiar face after years without seeing him.

“There’s not too many kids from the same high school teams playing college baseball, but to have an opportunity to pitch against not only his team, but him, was awesome,” Shepard said.

The Lord Jeffs (27-12) now fall to the losers’ bracket of the NCAA Regional. The team will play the winner of Cortland and Rensselaer on Saturday at 1 p.m., needing a win to keep its season alive. Amherst defeated No. 7 nationally ranked Cortland 6-3 on Thursday night.

Ithaca (37-6), the No. 3 team in the country, remains undefeated in the regional at 3-0 and can reach the College World Series with one more victory.

Adams and Shepard played together for three years in high school, and luck conspired to pit the two friends against each other on Friday. Both teams had to win their first two games of the regional, and their teams’ pitching rotations needed to fall in place perfectly for the all-Pioneer Valley duel to occur.

Long before they were Amherst Hurricanes though, they played against each other in various youth leagues and even had the same pitching coach for two years. Not wanting to give away too much or mess with each other’s pre-game rituals, the rivals spoke only briefly before Friday’s game.

“We wished each other good luck, but we were in our own little zones,” Shepard said.

Adams got the better of Friday’s tilt, going seven innings and allowing just four hits and two runs for the win. He walked two and added five strikeouts, while retiring the first seven batters he faced.

Shepard went 52∕3 innings, leaving with six hits and three runs allowed. He had one strikeout and walked three.

After missing the entire 2012 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent in September 2011, Adams (6-0) caught fire late this season, giving up just five runs in 221∕3 innings over his last three starts. He didn’t cool off on Friday.

“The beginning of the year was kind of rough, and I couldn’t find my rhythm mechanically,” Adams said. “I used to rely on my fastball a lot, and now I try to get a lot of those pitches going. It’s made me a better overall pitcher.”

The contest remained close throughout with the largest lead for either squad being Ithaca’s 2-0 advantage after the second inning. The Jeffs entered the bottom of the ninth with a chance for a rally, but Bombers closer Jimmy Wagner did not allow a base runner to complete a six-out save and seal Adams’ victory.

The game’s decisive run came in the top of the fourth. Shepard took a line drive to the glove hand yet still managed to throw the hitter out at first. He appeared briefly rattled after that, though, allowing the next batter to double to left field. Shepard balked the runner to third base, and after allowing a walk, a bloop single to center field off the bat of Tim Locastro broke the 2-2 tie.

Amherst got two runs in the bottom of the third when it loaded the bases with one out. A hard ground ball by Taiki Kasuga forced an error by the Ithaca shortstop and scored one, and a sacrifice fly by Brendon Hardin tied the game at 2-2.

The Bombers got on the board in the top of the second when Luke Stark doubled to right field, scoring Matt Conolly from first. A single moved Stark to third, and he scored on a high-bouncing ground ball later in the frame.

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