Rider hands Monmouth first MAAC loss

By Dylan Manfre

After the softball team split a road series against Princeton, Rider 5-27 (2-4) returned to Herb and John Young field for a pair of doubleheaders against Wagner and MAAC Monmouth on April 6 and 7.

Wagner was undefeated against the Broncs since 2012 and they tacked on two more wins, 12-5 and 8-3 victories, respectively. 

The Broncs plated three early runs thanks to a pair of RBI hits from junior infielders Rachael Zeides and Elyse Cuttic. Freshman infielder Grace Stansfield recorded a stolen base and improved Rider to 10-of-12 on the year in that regard. 

The Seahawks were deterred and exploded for a nine-run seventh inning that spanned 22 minutes.

Senior infielder Kiera Swank finished game one 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a home run for Rider. Her homer in the bottom half of the sixth inning gave the Broncs a 5-3 lead.

Game two featured a lower-scoring contest, but followed a similar format. Rider allowed Wagner to gain momentum in the latter innings. 

The Seahawks carried over their consistent hitting from game one and produced eight runs on nine hits.

Second-Year Head Coach Davon Ortega mentioned after the game that the team needs to work on not allowing their opponents to run away with a lead.

“We need to learn how to stop the bleeding. We need to learn how to not make two errors back-to-back,” Ortega said. “If we [allow a] walk [or] make an error, we need to learn to fight back from that. We need to learn how to put a team away.”

Half of Rider’s eight runs scored between the two contests were recorded prior to the home half of the fourth inning. Ortega emphasized that getting runs on the board early on is critical.

“It’s huge,” Ortega said. “Once you get [those runs,] the momentum is on your side and we need to learn how to keep that.”

On April 7, a crowd of 320 was on hand for Rider’s double-header against defending MAAC champions Monmouth 21-12 (7-1).

The Hawks put sophomore hurler Alyssa Irons in the circle, who tossed a gem in a 6-0 complete-game shutout. Irons, who is in her first year with the program after transferring from Hofstra University, struck out seven of her 24 batters faced. She entered Sunday with a 13-7 record and a 1.71 ERA.

Battling Irons in the circle was Cuttic, who retired the Monmouth in order multiple times in the early innings.

“I used my drop ball as much as I could and got them to hit it into the ground,” said Cuttic, who struck out two batters in the opening game.

Katie Harrington, Deangie Jimenez and Erika Coreth recorded two hits a piece for the Hawks. Coreth recorded her first career home run in the third inning.

Rider broke out its own offensive arsenal, defeating Monmouth 5-2 in the second game and handed them their first conference loss of their campaign. Ortega said the team accomplished the goals they set out for themselves after the Wagner contest. 

“We talked yesterday about believing in ourselves and believing as a team and we came back and stayed aggressive,” Ortega said.

Freshman Brooklyn Trujillo had a superb game in the circle for the Broncs, with four strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Going up against a lineup that ranked in the top in the MAAC in batting average, hits and home runs, Trujillo wanted to go into the game with a positive mindset.

“Yesterday I went out [with] a negative mindset so I decided to go out there today and say ‘Hey, so what? We have nothing else to lose. No one’s expecting us to win anyway,’” Trujillo said. 

After she tossed a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, the fired-up Henderson, Colorado, native pumped her fist and yelled “lets go” as she ran to her teammates.

“In that last inning I was telling myself ‘Spin the ball, stick to the game plan, I’ve had them off balance all game so just stick to what we were doing,” Trujillo said.

The Broncs have three days of rest before they take on Lehigh University at home on April 10 with first pitch set for 2:30 p.m.

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