Rampart High School softball coach Ryan Sheets had a good idea what he would get from senior Shelby Shepherd at the plate this season. What she would provide in the circle was more uncertain after spending her first three seasons as a middle infielder.
“This is kinda a new role for her pitching all the time,” Sheets said.
So far, she’s delivered.
In addition to her .600 batting average, The Gazette’s Peak Performer of the week owns a 4-0 record with a 1.40 earned run average. She’s mixed an improved fastball with offspeed stuff.
“I’d say I do throw a lot harder this year than I have in the past,” Shepherd said. “I’m definitely working on the strength. I’m trying to keep the spin tight for my pitching. It just kinda comes hand in hard, I guess.”
The senior has struck out 34 batters in 20 innings. Of the 12 runs she’s allowed, just four have been earned.
“She’s working ahead in the count, really just being a bulldog out there and getting after it,” Sheets said. “She throws two pitches for strikes. At this level, if you can throw your fastball for a strike and a secondary pitch for a strike, you’re going to be pretty well off.”
The Rams are off to an unbeaten start with wins over Palmer, Doherty, Heritage and Boulder, scoring at least 14 runs in each game.
“So far, (it’s going) really well,” Shepherd said. “We lost a couple seniors last year, but this year we have strong talent coming in. We’ve been able to perform at the plate.”
Shepherd is amongst the team leaders with eight RBIs, eight runs scored and three doubles. She’s had at least two hits in every game.
Her approach is simple.
“The way I think when I go into the batter’s box is just (look for) a solid hit, a base hit, and sometimes you get doubles, triples, home runs,” Shepherd said. “I just think ‘solid contact’ and go from there.”
As a freshman, Shepherd played second base. Sophomore and junior year were spent at shortstop. She’s pitched every inning for the Rams this fall, but her future position is more uncertain.
Shepherd is committed to play at Regis University. Ranger coach Daven Bond likes what she can do at the plate.
“He doesn’t know defensively yet where he wants me, but he loves my stick,” Shepherd said.
“That’s what I’m going there for.”