By Austin Ferguson
The baseball team had a strong week, with a victory over NJIT on April 3, 16-10, before taking two-out-of-three games in a weekend set against Saint Peter’s and defeating Seton Hall on April 9, 11-8.
Rider’s bats were alive and consistent against NJIT, scoring multiple runs in four different innings.
A trio of Broncs drove in three runs each — junior infielder Kyle Johnson, junior outfielder Sebastian Williamson and senior first baseman Riley Mihalik all tallied three RBIs in the win over the Highlanders.
Williamson and Mihalik each tallied a home run in the contest to boast.
On the mound, freshman Andrew Imperatore threw four solid innings, only letting up one earned run and one hit in a winning effort. The start and win was the first in Imperatore’s collegiate career.
Rider Head Coach Barry Davis was happy with the Broncs’ offense, but was weary of their performance on the field.
“Overall, we showed some power and stole a few bases, we created our own offense,” Davis said. “We just need to play defense better which is the key.”
On April 6, Rider traveled to Jersey City to take on Saint Peter’s in a three-game MAAC conference matchup. The Broncs made major defensive improvements, blanking the Peacocks in a 7-0 victory.
Junior pitcher Pete Soporowski made major contributions to Rider’s winning effort, throwing seven and two-thirds shutout ball, fanning seven Saint Peter’s batters.
“We’re going to try and keep building off of our confidence,” Soporowski said. “And hopefully, we just keep rolling.”
Redshirt senior CJ Hirschy came in relief to record the last four outs for Rider.
On offense, Rider continued its season-long trend of high-volume scoring, highlighted by a three-run fourth inning. Milahik hit his second home run of the week in the bout, his eighth on the season.
The Broncs went into the first game of their Sunday doubleheader with the same energy they had against NJIT, going off for another offensive explosion.
Rider jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks to a two-run double from junior catcher Chris Roan, a sacrifice fly from senior infielder Richie Tecco and a pair of RBI singles from senior catcher Brennan McAllister and junior infielder Zach Fick.
After a third-inning RBI double from Fick, the Broncs would have their big inning in the top half of the fourth.
Starting with a double from Williamson that drove in junior outfielder Jack Peterson, Rider had an inning-long onslaught of the Peacocks’ pitching, scoring seven runs against Saint Peter’s.
The Broncs tacked on another run in the sixth from a bases-loaded walk of freshman outfielder Alex Diamantis.
Rider’s 14-run outburst would prove to be more than enough, due in-part to a strong Broncs’ pitching performance. Sophomore Vincent Vitacco got the starting nod, going six innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and striking out four.
Sophomore catcher Liam Harding came on in relief on the mound for Rider, tossing a scoreless seventh inning and striking out two to secure the 14-3 victory for the Broncs.
The second game of Rider’s doubleheader would prove to be a much harder battle than earlier in the day.
The Broncs entered the seventh inning in a 2-2 tie with two runners on. Junior outfielder Joe Simone cleared the bases with a triple to left-center field, putting his team up, 4-2.
Rider, however, could not prevent Saint Peter’s from answering, as an RBI single from Jared Paladino and a two-run double off the bat of Jared Quintero put the Peacocks up, 5-4.
Saint Peter’s wouldn’t look back, putting on two insurance runs in the home half of the eighth off of a Hunter Mason double.
The Broncs attempted a ninth-inning comeback, utilizing a Simone single and Roan sacrifice fly to bring the game to 7-6. A groundout from Tecco ended the game and handed Rider the loss.
“We will take the series win, but we left a lot on the table,” Davis said. “We have to close innings, all seven of [Saint Peter’s] runs in the second game came with two outs in the inning.”
The series win against Saint Peter’s was the first conference series victory for the Broncs, previously losing series against Siena and Niagara this season.
Rider came back to Sonny Pittaro field to host Seton Hall on April 10 and were able to duplicate their success from earlier in the week.
The Pirates scored early and often against freshman Colin Eiser. Seton Hall added five runs in the first two innings, knocking Eiser out of the game after two and two-thirds innings.
Freshman Danny Kirwin took over for Rider, though the Broncs’ defensive woes would not end there, as the Pirates tacked on three more runs in the top half of the fourth to give Seton Hall a 8-2 lead.
The middle innings would be vital to Rider’s offense, putting up a run in the home half of the fourth, followed by a three-run inning in the fifth off the back of a two-run triple from Mihalik to lower the Pirates’ lead to 8-6.
In the bottom of the seventh, a two-run double off the bat of Peterson knotted the game at 8 for the Broncs.
A string of hits from Tecco, Johnson and graduate student catcher Mike Ionta put Rider up 11-8.
After a half-hour rain delay, the umpires called the game, giving the Broncs the victory in the seventh.
The Broncs will face Wagner on April 10 at 6 p.m. before a weekend series against Iona on April 13 at 12 p.m.