By Rob Rose
The baseball team continued to struggle this season after an 0-4 week with losses to La Salle and Fairfield. The Broncs dropped a one-run contest with the Explorers before being swept by the Stags in MAAC play. Rider is currently on a five-game losing streak.
The Broncs were dominated in the series, with only one game remaining a close contest. Fairfield won games one and two, 13-4 and 15-1, before clinching a 5-4 victory in the second half of a doubleheader on April 8.
“In order to be more consistent, we have to play with a high level of energy and intensity every game,” said sophomore outfielder Joe Simone. “We are coming together as a team and getting better every day.”
Freshman Joe Papeo took the ball for Rider on April 4. Papeo entered the game with a 1-4 record after taking a loss in his last start against Lehigh on March 27, despite all five runs allowed being unearned.
The left-hander stranded a runner on first after allowing a two-out base hit in the top of the first inning.
Sophomore infielder Kyle Johnson stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the first frame. The shortstop advanced to second after a throwing error by the Explorers’ third baseman.
After a passed ball got by La Salle catcher Ryan Guckin, Johnson sprinted around the bases and scored from second, giving Rider a 1-0 advantage.
In the top of the second, Papeo had a 1-2-3 inning after consecutive ground-ball outs. Leading off the inning for the Broncs, senior outfielder Harrison McClure was hit by a pitch, then stole second.
After sophomore catcher Tyler Stockwell and freshman infielder Jake Barbiere reached on a walk and an error, respectively, the bases were loaded. Junior infielder Richie Tecco struck out swinging, setting up a RBI opportunity for senior infielder Jake Bender.
Bender was hit by a pitch, forcing McClure home, increasing the Broncs’ lead to 2-0. With junior first baseman Riley Mihalik at the plate, a wild pitch got past Guckin, scoring Stockwell from third and Barbiere from second. Rider took a 4-0 lead in the first two innings without recording a hit.
“We earned the four runs because we were aggressive, running on the bases and took advantage of their mistakes from their hustling,” said Head Coach Barry Davis.
Starting off the third, La Salle got its offense started. With two outs and runners on second and third, the Explorers got on the board with a two-run double by first baseman Ben Faso. Designated hitter Chase Arnold singled to right field, bringing in Faso and cutting the Rider advantage to 4-3.
In the top of the fourth, the Explorers hung another three runs on the board, and Papeo’s day was done. Second baseman Tommy Toal drove in two runs with a base hit to right field, pushing La Salle ahead, 5-4. Papeo was relieved by freshman Vincent Vitacco after going three and one-third innings while allowing six runs on eight hits. A double scored Toal and gave the Explorers a 6-4 lead after four innings.
La Salle increased its advantage to 7-4 after another RBI single in the top of the fifth. The play was part of seven unanswered runs scored by the Explorers from the third to fifth innings.
Leading off the fifth, Mihalik delivered the first Rider hit of the game with a double to right field. Simone drove Mihalik home, trimming the La Salle lead to 7-5.
McClure sparked the offense in the bottom of the seventh with a double before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Senior outfielder Christian Estevez walked and moved to second on a wild pitch with Stockwell on deck. The backstop drove the ball to center field, scoring McClure; Estevez came around on an error by the center fielder, tying the game at 7.
In the top of the ninth, junior Jordan Silverman came on in relief, looking to keep the score 7-7. The Rider bullpen held La Salle in check after seven straight runs.
“The positive side is that once we got Vitacco, [junior Zack] Gakeler, [junior CJ] Hirschy and Silverman in there, they should have never scored,” said Davis. “They kept us in the game and gave us a chance to get through their bullpen.”
A sacrifice fly to center field drove in the go-ahead run, putting the Explorers up 8-7.
Simone drew a walk to start off the bottom of the final frame. After an error on the pitcher, who attempted to pick off Simone at first base, the cleanup hitter was standing on third base with no one out. With the infield in, protecting against the tying run scoring from third, McClure grounded out to shortstop.
Junior catcher Brennan McAllister pinch hit to give Rider a left-handed batter and a better matchup, with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, but he fouled out to third base. Stockwell stepped to the plate with two outs and the tying run only 90 feet away. Stockwell grounded out, ending the Broncs’ rally and securing an 8-7 victory for La Salle.
“[There was a runner on] third base and nobody out, and we couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield,” said Davis.
Rider returned to MAAC play with a weekend series against Fairfield. The Stags were the conference’s regular-season champions last year.
“It was a tough weekend all around,” said Davis. “There were virtually no positives in game one. We were down early again and spent the game trying to manage it the best we could. Overall, it was a poorly played weekend.”
The Broncs’ record is now 6-20 overall, 1-4 in conference play. Rider returns home for a matchup with Wagner at 3:30 p.m. on April 11.
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