By Thomas Regan
The baseball team beat Rutgers on March 21, after losing five of eight on its road trip from March 10-19.
The Broncs fell behind by a run in the first inning against the Scarlet Knights, but freshman right-hander John Yocum delivered 6.1 innings of two-run ball, as part of a seven-strikeout afternoon.
Rider’s offense delivered 16 hits and scored seven runs, en route to the 7-2 victory.
The win and strong pitching performance came after the rotation struggled with inconsistencies during its meeting with three southern teams over the past week.
Rider’s trip got off to a promising start, as the Broncs took two of three from the Southeastern Conference’s Georgia Bulldogs behind massive offensive games from senior first baseman Tyler Kaiser and junior right fielder Harrison McClure.
The pair blasted a home run each and drove in eight runs in the series.
In the first of the three-game set, Rider’s offense jumped all over Georgia’s pitching, scoring 11 runs, including McClure’s big day. Freshman Pete Soporowski held the Bulldogs to four runs over six innings while striking out five and securing the win.
The Broncs continued to thrive offensively in the second game, scoring eight runs, while junior left-hander Nick Margevicius allowed three runs over seven innings.
Sophomore designated hitter Riley Mihalik, who collected four hits in the series, said the team is confident in its junior starting pitcher.
“We know every time Margevicius takes the mound, we’re hard to beat, plus Lipinski’s defense,” Mihalik said. “You can expect big things out of the Broncs this year.”
Despite the strong start to the road trip, Rider dropped the final game against Georgia, 9-3.
Mihalik believes the team’s performance against Georgia is indicative of its talent level.
“The best part of the trip was taking two against Georgia,” Mihalik said. “We proved to ourselves that we can be a top team in the MAAC and a contender in the NCAA.”
Rider then split the two-game series against Campbell, as the team’s starting pitching struggled to quiet the opposing offense.
The Broncs’ John Yocum struggled in the first game, allowing seven runs in 5.2 innings. Rider scored five runs, but ultimately lost the opening contest 7-5.
In the final game of the series against Campbell, Rider’s offense exploded for 12 runs, masking another struggle on the mound.
The Broncs entered the seventh inning down 7-4, but scored eight unanswered runs to secure a 12-7 victory over Campbell, splitting the series.
Rider then headed to Virginia to take on Radford in a three-game series on March 17-19. The Broncs’ pitching was rocked to the tune of 32 runs in the series, as the offense could muster just six runs.
In the series opener, the Broncs were handed an eight-run deficit after the third inning. Pete Soporowksi allowed seven hits and eight runs – six earned – in just 2.2 innings.
Rider continued to allow runs, and could not muster much offense, as the team scattered five hits in the 18-0 loss.
In the second game, Margevicius dominated Radford over five innings, striking out eight, allowing four hits and just one unearned run.
However, the performance was not enough for the Broncs, as the bullpen allowed two runs, and the offense could only push one run across in the 3-1 defeat.
Trying to avoid the series sweep, Rider quickly went ahead 4-0 after two innings. The team saw another strong pitching performance from its starter Sparano, who went five innings and allowed two runs.
However, Sparano handed a 5-2 lead over to the bullpen in the sixth inning and sophmore Jordan Silverman and senior Josh Sharik allowed three runs each, as the Broncs fell behind 8-5.
Rider was unable to respond and the bullpen allowed three more runs, en route to an 11-5 loss.
The Broncs will open the conference season with a three-game home series against Fairfield from March 25-26. They then have two more home games before they hit the road again.
Kaiser said the Broncs will have a great season, when it limits the mistakes and continues to score runs.
“We learned how strong of a team we are,” he said. “Once we focus on the small details, play aggressive and work on closing out games, we’ll collect more wins. It is important to start this upcoming weekend series at home on a positive note.”
Additional reporting by JJ Santagata.