Broncs bolster MAAC lead at Manhattan

Sophomore infielder Mike Parsons had three hits in the third game of the away series at Manhattan.

By Steven Eggert

The Broncs look to build on their MAAC-leading 7-2 conference record when they face Saint Peter’s in a three-game home series April 20 and 21.

In their previous MAAC series on April 13 and 14, the Broncs (21-14) played two-time defending champion Manhattan (16-18, 6-6 MAAC). After losing the first game 3-1, Rider fought back to get the victory in the next two games 6-5 and 6-3, winning the series.

“The thing about playing Manhattan is, they are defending champs two times in a row,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “It doesn’t matter what their situation is — you kind of know that going in. Also, we’ve never won up there. We’ve won games, but never a series. And to do that was a great accomplishment for us. Plus it keeps us at the top of the league.”

This week, Rider played two midweek games. The team lost 3-1 to Monmouth (21-14, 12-4 NEC) on April 16 and followed that with a win against Long Island – Brooklyn (10-22, 6-6 NEC) on April 17.

This weekend, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks (12-20, 5-4 MAAC) come to Sonny Pittaro Field, intending to halt the recent conference success of the Broncs. Sophomore catcher Eric Strano believes this weekend will be important for the team to differentiate itself from the rest of the teams in the conference.

“We won the series last year, and we’d like to continue that trend,” Strano said. “This is a big MAAC weekend for us. After playing three good MAAC teams and winning those series, it will be huge if we can come out and solidify ourselves as the No. 1 team.”

The Broncs have had a lot of recent success because of some changes in the batting order. After being seen at the bottom of the order earlier in the season, sophomore infielder Mike Parsons was placed at leadoff, while junior outfielder Nick Crescenzo was put to bat fifth.

“If you look at our statistics, your leadoff guy has got to be a guy who’s willing to take pitches, and Parsons is,” Davis said. “Crescenzo has been pretty productive with runners in scoring position and hitting from the five hole. You are hoping he’s going to have more opportunities with your one-two-three-four hitters in front.”

Parsons has been a leadoff hitter since his younger days playing baseball, so he embraces this role.

“My job is to see as many pitches as I can, try to be productive at bat, get on base and get things going,” Parsons said. “I think it jump-starts the team when the leadoff guy gets on. It’s a big deal. I’ve batted leadoff a lot of my life, so it’s coming naturally to me.”

Pitching has been the cornerstone for the team this year. As catcher, Strano has enjoyed seeing the progression of the pitching staff from behind the plate.

“The starters have been good from day one,” Strano said. “The bullpen’s really coming along, and later in the season, you see who your main guys are going to be. Senior pitchers Sean Kuberet and Chris Taylor have been able to come out of the bullpen successfully. They are important building blocks to get to the sophomore closer Zach Mawson.”

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