By Jordan Hall
Rider entered its three-game series at Marist last weekend on the upswing, winning six of its last eight and coming off one of its most impressive wins of the season against Temple. The momentum didn’t carry over, as the Broncs dropped two of three against their MAAC rival and then fell to a one-win NJIT squad, 5-3, on Wednesday.
The Red Foxes (16-15, 7-5 MAAC) came in second in the conference in ERA (4.77) and fielding percentage (.960) and with solid offensive numbers, boasting a well-rounded team overall.
The Broncs (14-15, 6-6 MAAC) began the weekend on the right foot, answering the challenge and grabbing game one, 8-5. Rider executed offensively in the latter innings and held the lead with a successful bullpen effort.
After falling behind 4-0 early in the first two innings, it was all Broncs from then on. In the top of the fifth, senior Sean Olson connected for his sixth home run of the season, hitting a three-run shot and cutting the Marist lead to one.
Rider tied the contest in the seventh and then put up a three-spot in the eighth, gaining control of the lead, 7-4, and the game. Senior Jamie Hayes knocked in two runs in the inning off a single to right field.
After senior Mike Petrowski’s early struggles on the mound, he settled down tremendously. The Hamilton Square native gave up only one hit and no runs his final four innings of work.
“Petrowski kept us in the game after giving up an early lead and we were able to score some runs on a couple of clutch hits,” said Hayes.
Sophomore Mike Thomas earned the win in relief and Hayes shut the door, picking up his fourth save of the season.
Olson and Hayes finished with five hits and five RBIs combined, leading the way for Rider.
In game two, Marist stuck for the big inning, plating five runs in the bottom of the second and cruising to a 6-1 victory.
Hayes scored an unearned run in the first inning, but then the Red Foxes answered, opening up the game in the second. Marist blasted two home runs in the frame, jumping to a 5-1 lead.
That was all Marist sophomore Kyle Putnam needed as he went the distance, pitching seven innings and giving up zero earned runs.
The Broncs had five hits on the day, two coming from senior Maurice Williams, while senior Jimmer Kennedy picked up the loss after finishing his outing strong.
In the important rubber match of the series, Rider ran into one of the elite pitchers in the MAAC, junior B.J. Martin. The Manalapan High School product was simply unhittable, as he hurled eight and two-thirds innings while punching out 19 Broncs, giving the Red Foxes the series finale, 4-2. Martin is currently second in the conference in strikeouts with 51.
Marist scored three runs in the second inning off of some minor control problems from senior Derek Caldwell. The southpaw hit a batter and then gave up a run on a wild pitch, but he threw his third consecutive quality start, going eight innings and giving up four runs.
Rider rallied in the top of the ninth, scoring two runs on bases loaded walks, but were unable to push any more across.
“The final two games were a let down for our offense and their guys pitched great,” Hayes said. “Give them the credit but we’re better than that and when we face them in the tournament it wont happen again.”
The most disappointing loss came in the middle of the week as the Broncs were upended by 1-19 NJIT. Rider led the Highlanders 2-0 until the bottom of the seventh inning, when NJIT exploded for five runs against the Broncs’ bullpen, taking the wind out of Rider. The Broncs put a run on the board in the eighth off a RBI double by Olson but that’s all they could manage, completing the upset.
“This is the worst loss I have ever been a part of,” Hayes said. “There is not much I can say other than we didn’t get the clutch hit when we needed it.”
Olson, Williams and sophomore Steve Galella compiled six of Rider’s seven hits and all three RBIs.
The Broncs look to rebound this weekend as they travel to Siena for a crucial three-game set. Game one takes place Saturday at noon.
“This weekend is a big weekend for us and we have to win all three,” Hayes said. “We are gone to play as hard and as well as we have all year. We’ll find out on Sunday where we stand and if we want to be in the tournament.”