By Jillian Shutt
Rider’s baseball team had an outstanding start to its season, sweeping the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in a four-game series earlier this week.
The Broncs defeated UMES 8-0 in game one and then 2-0 in the nightcap during Sunday’s doubleheader. Rider came back strong the following day, winning both games again, 4-1 and 7-0, respectively.
The season opener took place on Sunday, Feb. 28, with a shutout doubleheader against UMES. Rider took advantage right away by scoring three runs in the first inning.
Senior pitcher Ryan Miller got the win in Rider’s first game with four strike outs, allowing only two hits. Senior Matt McCollum contributed four hits and three RBIs to the Broncs’ first win of the season.
Junior Mike Thomas was the starting pitcher in the second game on Sunday. Thomas pitched six shutout innings and struck out eight. Making his collegiate debut, freshman Tyler Smith was credited with the save after striking out two batters.
Sunday’s nightcap was a hard-fought win. The game was at a stalemate until Rider’s last at bat when junior John Ralston reached first base on an error by UMES. Then senior Garrett Rugg, who was pinch running for Ralston, scored on an RBI double by McCollum. Senior Nick Wojnowski came up to bat and hit in McCollum for a two-run lead that would bring the Broncs to a 2-0 victory over UMES.
Monday, March 1, was another successful day for the Broncs as they once again won both games against UMES. The Broncs scored in the first inning gaining a 1-0 lead over UMES. Freshman Joe Calogero made his first collegiate appearance as the starting pitcher in the victory. He pitched for eight innings and struck out five batters in the process. Junior Nate Eppley took over in the ninth, allowing one hit and striking out three for the win.
The second game on Monday had a similar story with Rider leading 1-0 after the first inning. Sophomore Patrick Devlin returned to pitching after having shoulder surgery last year. He struck out five batters in only four innings. In the fourth inning, Rider’s offense was aggressive, scoring four unanswered runs, giving the Broncs a 7-0 lead.
The Second Team All-MAAC selection last year, junior A.J. Albee, had four hits on Monday, and McCollum had a total of six RBIs in the four-game series.
“We had a good weekend; we pitched and played defense well,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “I think everyone played as well as they could considering the circumstances. We have plenty of work to do in all areas.”
The team’s goal for this season is to win the conference regular season, win the tournament and participate in the NCAA regionals.
“We must realize we have a big challenge ahead of us,” Barry said. “Appalachian State is 6-0, and I am hoping they will bring out the best in us.”
Rider has a three-game series on March 5 at Appalachian State.