By Shaun Chornobroff
Through the first 14 games of its season, the Rider baseball team found success wherever it went. The Broncs won three out of four games in each of their first three series before splitting a double-header with a Monmouth team that came into the day with an 11 game winning streak.
But then came Fairfield, a team that had cruised through the first ten games of the season with an undefeated record before making the Broncs its latest victim, taking all four games from them in Connecticut on April 9 and 10.
The Broncs started the series with a manageable 8-3 loss and, in all reality, got in their way, making a poor error in the first inning and failing to take advantage of many offensive opportunities, a combo that will almost always result in a loss against a team as talented as Fairfield.
“You got to give them credit,” Davis said. “I think we were tuned up, ready to go, but they just came out swinging… They jumped on us right from the get-go and really never relented.”
Rider’s only runs of the game came in a three-run sixth inning, but in the seventh and final inning, the team was unable to capitalize on any momentum.
Rider’s pitching bright spot came from Ben Waxler, who had a strong relief outing. The freshman, making his collegiate debut impressed, pitching three one-third innings, striking out two batters and was unlucky to have given up two runs in his debut.
“Making my college debut is something I’ve worked very hard for. When I got into the game, I tried to treat it like the game I’ve been playing my whole life,” Waxler said. “My main goal was to go in and help my team in any way I could.”
Pete Soporowski has been the dominant and consistent ace for Rider this season, coming into his fourth start of the season top 10 in the nation in ERA and already having earned a MAAC Pitcher of the Week Award.
But the Stags offense finally got to the southpaw, clobbering nine hits and seven runs off of the star graduate student in a 10-0 defeat.
Soporowski only pitched four two-third innings before being removed from the game.
“He didn’t have his best stuff for a number of reasons I guess, but there are no excuses, he has to be better than that,” Davis said.
Fairfield’s Jake Noviello, who was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Pitcher of the Week, was dominant on the mound for the Stags, pitching all seven innings and only allowing four hits.
In 16 innings of baseball on April 10, Rider’s offense was so quiet that you can hear pin drop, only garnering seven hits and failing to score a single run in two defeats against the Stags.
“Fairfield threw strikes forcing us to best them, that is what good teams do,” Davis said. “We hit some balls hard, but odds are they are going to be caught. They played flawless defense as well.”
Junior Frank Doelling continued to show that he is one of the MAAC’s premier strikeout artists, punching out six Fairfield batters in a little less than six innings in the first game of the doubleheader. But the Stags took advantage of any opportunity given to them and also scored five runs on Doelling, en route to a 5-0 defeat for the Broncs.
“Frank missed some spots, but he battled. He competed,” Davis said. “We didn’t help him with our offense nor did we play well enough in the field behind him.”
Rider concluded the series by only getting six runners on base in a 6-0 loss before heading back to Lawrenceville.
Senior Sebastian Williamson made his first of the season for Rider, allowing two runs in an inning before Davis turned to a trio of pitchers out of the bullpen to conclude the series.
All three runs Rider scored in the series came in the sixth inning of the first game. The Broncs were held scoreless for the last 24 innings and only had a runner cross the plate in one out of 30 innings.
“I thought we continued to battle. We played hard,” Davis said. All of these guys have played long enough to know these things happen. [You] accept it and move on.”
The losses bring Rider’s record to 10-8 on the season. The Broncs will look to recapture its early-season momentum on April 14 when it travels to Monmouth for a double-header against the Hawks for the second straight week.