Baseball dominates opening MAAC series

By Michael Mack

Senior pitcher Mike Thomas hurled eight strong innings, striking out 11 in the 12-2 win over Niagara.

The Rider baseball team is on a roll as of late, and it carried that momentum into a home series against Niagara last weekend and a road game at Seton Hall on Tuesday.

Even with a tough loss to Seton Hall, the Broncs have won nine of their last 11, creating the momentum they need as they go into the part of their schedule that is littered with conference foes.

The Broncs (13-8, 3-0 MAAC) jumped on Niagara (3-20, 0-3 MAAC) early in the first game of the three-game set, when designated hitter senior Steve Galella knocked in a run in the first inning. The Broncs then opened up the game in the third inning. Seven hits and one error added up to a seven-run inning, making the score 8-0 in favor of Rider.

With ace pitcher senior Mike Thomas on the hill, that would be more than enough. Thomas allowed just four hits and one run over his eight innings of work.

“I think I threw pretty well against Niagara,” Thomas said. “My arm felt good and I think my pitches were pretty sharp all game.”

The Broncs poured on four more runs, bringing their total to 12 for the game. The offensive explosion was due in large part to a big game from outfielder freshman Nick Crescenzo, who had five hits and scored three runs. The Broncs won the game by a final score of 12-2.

The offense would not slow down the next day either. Rider once again jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the first inning. Once again, that would be more than enough run support for junior pitcher Patrick Devlin. Devlin pitched all seven innings giving up just six hits and one earned run.

The offense was able to make it a blowout, scratching out six more runs over the course of the game, bringing the Broncs’ total to 10. Senior shortstop John Ralston knocked in three of those runs himself. The Broncs won the game by a final score of 10-2.

In the second game, for the first time in the series, the Broncs did not score in the first inning. They did, however, score at least one run in each of the next six innings as the offense continued its hot streak.

Keeping the solid play going for the Broncs pitcher was senior Nate Eppley. Eppley went all nine innings, allowing just six hits and one run.

“I felt I threw well against Niagara,” Eppley said. “It was easy to pitch when I got such run support.”

The run support that Eppley mentioned equalled 12 runs through nine innings. Ralston once again knocked in three runs while Galella hit three more himself. The Broncs won the game by a final score of 12-1, sweeping the series against their conference rival.

The Broncs then traveled to Seton Hall to take on the Pirates in a single game where the offense stumbled a bit.

The Broncs were held scoreless for the first four innings, while Seton Hall (11-11) jumped out to a three-run lead. Rider evened it up in the fifth with three runs of their own, and the score remained tied until the ninth. Seton Hall was unable to get a hit in the bottom of the ninth, but that didn’t stop them from manufacturing the game-winning run, which was scored on a wild pitch.

Rider will look to continue this hot streak against conference rival Iona (7-13, 0-3 MAAC) on Saturday, in the next step toward achieving their  goals.

“We’re constantly working on things to improve and ultimately win another championship,” said Eppley.

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