By Steven Eggert
After winning every conference series this season, and taking sole possession of first place in the MAAC, Rider plays Niagara on the road this weekend for the first time since the 2009 season.
The Broncs (27-17; 11-4 MAAC) recently took two out of three against the Siena Saints (20-24, 10-5 MAAC) on April 27-28, lost to Saint Joseph’s (23-20, 9-6 Atlantic Ten) on April 30, and beat Lafayette (9-38, 6-14 Patriot League) on May 1.
Even though every one of these MAAC series is important, Head Coach Barry Davis has praised his team’s mentality week in and out.
“It seems like every weekend is a separate situation, but I think we’ve taken every series kind of the same,” Davis said. “We’re not really high, not real low, we’re pretty consistent, and we’re in ball games. There aren’t many ebbs and flows, and I think that’s been the key for us.”
On May 4-5, the Broncs face the Niagara Purple Eagles (15-28; 9-9 MAAC). Early last season, the Broncs won two of three games against them.The team has developed a lot since last year and has grown its camaraderie.
“We have matured as a team,” senior outfielder Ian Lindsay said. “Experience is something that cannot be taught, and the more we have as a team the better off we are. The main thing I feel that helps us is how we are together. The guys would put everything on the line for each other.”
The weekend rotation will once again consist of senior Tyler Smith, red-shirt junior Mike Murphy and sophomore Kurt Sowa. This year, they have a combined 18-9 record with an ERA of 3.02.
“I would call it consistency,” Murphy, the reigning MAAC pitcher of the year, said. “I see Sowa out there every day working on his mechanics, and Smith is like the veteran. Everyone knows he’ll get the job done. I stick with both of them. We sort of have a friendly rivalry going within the starters and we all want to do well for one another.”
This will be Davis’ first weekend traveling to Niagara with this group of players.
“One of the most interesting things is that none of them have ever been to Niagara,” Davis said. “One year we were supposed to go there, but they had snow and we had to change it [to a home game]. So they’ve played all of their series against Niagara [at home]. It will be new for everybody, and they’re looking forward to that.”
With only three MAAC series left, the Broncs are in a good position to make a run for the MAAC title. The senior class consists of nine players who won a conference championship in the 2010 season. The feeling of victory is something that just cannot be explained, according to Lindsay.
“The seniors know the feeling of winning it and it’s not something that we can tell the rest of the guys,” Lindsay said. “It’s one of the top moments in my life and all the others will agree. It just doesn’t get any better than piling up on the field after the last out. We think about it every day, and it is what we are playing for. This year we have the team that can do it. It’s our championship this year.”