Ed. note: Because of an editing error, the photo that appeared with this story in the print edition of March 29, 2013, was not the photo described in the caption. The photo is now correct in our online edition.
By Steven Eggert
Over spring break, the Broncs split a four-game series with St. Bonaventure, lost twice to Campbell and won two of three in a series against New Jersey Institute of Technology that ended on March 24.
After a win on March 26 against Rutgers (9-12), Rider (11-9) begins its conference schedule with a three-game home series versus Fairfield (7-12; 1-2 MAAC) at 3 p.m. at Sonny Pittaro Field.
The Broncs defeated Rutgers on March 26 by a score of 9-3, using nine different pitchers and held the Scarlet Knights scoreless in eight of the nine innings.
Head Coach Barry Davis values midweek games because they give opportunities to his bullpen pitchers.
“These are the kind of games where you want to try to get guys out there,” Davis said. “It’s just good to let guys get an inning for them to stay sharp because on the weekends, we’re throwing our best guys.”
The seven-eight-nine hitters, sophomore infielders Greg Fazio, and Mike Parsons, and freshman outfielder James Locklear, combined for seven of Rider’s 10 hits and also drove in seven of the nine runs.
“When the bottom of the lineup is hitting well, we know the top will always hit well,” Locklear said. “Our pitching has been good. We threw a bunch of guys today and giving them a lot of runs I think gave them a lot of confidence when they were on the mound.”
Fairfield will face the Broncs this afternoon when Rider begins its conference half of the season. On the other hand, the Stags began their MAAC schedule by losing two of three to Siena last weekend.
Both teams use a lot of young players in their lineups and pitching rotation.
“They were young like we were last year so I anticipate they will be a lot like us,” Davis said. “They’ll be fundamentally sound; they’ve lost a couple good arms but had a guy who threw well who was a freshman last year. They lost two out of three last weekend so they’ll come here with urgency. We know it’s going to be a tough series and we expect nothing less.”
In their recent three-game winning streak, the Broncs have scored a total of 24 runs in comparison to only 26 in the eight games prior.
Junior pitcher/outfielder Jerry Mulderig credits batting practice for the improvement of the offense in these recent games.
“From a hitter’s standpoint, a lot comes from batting practice,” Mulderig said. “Obviously it stinks when you go 0-4 but sometimes you go 0-4 and hit line drives. But batting practice-wise, it helps us keep our confidence offensively.”
From the beginning of the season, the Broncs have relied on their strong pitching staff. They lead the conference with a 3.50 ERA through the first 20 games and are the only MAAC team giving up under four rpg on the mound.
If the team continues following the coaches’ advice, Fazio believes that the Broncs can start their MAAC schedule with a sweep against Fairfield.
“They are coaching our approaches and that’s been working pretty well as far as getting into deeper counts and seeing pitches,” Fazio said. “To me, we’re capable of sweeping Fairfield and anything besides that would be a disappointment.”