Broncs’ trip west a tough learning experience
Former Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, “We made too many wrong mistakes.”
The same could be said for the Rider baseball team, which has gone on to lose eight of its last nine games after opening the season with a tightly contested series against East Tennessee State.
The Broncs (2-10 overall) were swept by Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and, most recently, Gonzaga. They lost two of three to Washington State.
“I would have liked us to play better,” Head Coach Barry Davis told Rider Sports Information. “But we are better prepared for the MAAC now then we were before we made this trip.”
On March 15, Rider traveled to the brand new Patterson Complex in Spokane, Wash., to take on Gonzaga (14-11 overall). In the opener, the Broncs collected 12 hits, but the Bulldogs rallied with three runs on three hits and a Rider error in the fifth inning to propel them to a 9-4 win.
In that game, Gonzaga scored a run in the first inning on three singles and, thanks to a Rider error, added three more runs in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead. Although junior designated hitter David Hayes hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for the Broncs, Gonzaga increased their lead to 6-1 by the conclusion of the inning.
Senior third baseman Jeff Reynolds and senior outfielder Brad States collected RBIs in the fifth. Freshman infielder Garrett Rugg pinch hit in the ninth and recorded his first collegiate RBI.
Gonzaga again steamrolled to victory in the second game of the series, 13-3, when it scored 11 runs in the first four innings. The backbreaker for Rider came in the fourth, when the Bulldogs scored six runs on five hits. Reynolds and sophomore catcher Sean Olson had RBIs for the Broncs. Freshman outfielder Darron Lattomus collected his first collegiate hit and RBI in the contest.
The third game was a heartbreaker for the Broncs. Down by one run in the eighth inning, sophomore outfielder Maurice Williams advanced to second on a passed ball and then later scored on a single by Hayes to even the game at 4-4. However, the game slipped away when the Bulldogs scored five unearned runs on three Rider errors in the bottom of the inning to clinch the win, 9-4.
Junior pitcher Will O’Connor kept the Broncs in the game going six and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts.
“They’re a good fastball hitting team,” O’Connor said of Gonzaga. “So I had to use my changeup a lot and got them to hit ground balls.”
In the series before, the Broncs dropped two of three to Washington St. (13-7 overall) at Bailey-Brayton Field. The Broncs won the opener, 4-1, behind the strong arm of sophomore pitcher Mike Petrowski, who allowed just one run in eight innings of work, but lost the second game, 11-6, when the Cougars scored four runs in the seventh inning on three hits. The late-game rally ended a series of innings in which the score interchanged repeatedly between the two teams.
The Broncs lost the rubber game, 11-0, when they only had one runner reach third base. Washington St., meanwhile, crafted an enormous five-run lead after scoring on three runs in the fourth inning on two hits, an error, a walk and a passed ball. They added four more runs on five hits in the fifth to take a 9-0 lead.
Junior outfielder Jon Leise had a strong series against Washington St., going five for 12 with two home runs and five RBIs. Afterwards, he said it was the preparation he did the week before that led to his success.
“I tried slowing myself down and seeing the spin of the ball,” Leise said. “I am seeing the ball very well now and a couple of balls ended up being home runs.”
The team started off March by losing all three of their games to VMI (16-4 overall) at Gray-Minor Stadium by scores of 6-4, 9-3, and 4-1.
The lone bright spot of the series was again Petrowski, who pitched three and two thirds innings of shutout relief, striking out five while allowing just one hit.
While the team’s performance looks ugly at first glance, Rider maintains that it has done well considering its absurdly stacked schedule. According to boydsworld.com, a college baseball ratings Web site, the Broncs have played the seventh toughest schedule in the country.
According to O’Connor, the list of problematic opponents has helped the team better prepare for the remainder of the season, much of which is against MAAC opponents. Only games against MAAC opponents count in terms of whether or not the team qualifies for postseason play.
“We’ve played a pretty tough schedule so far,” O’Connor said. “We should be ready to handle teams in the MAAC and be competitive.”
The Broncs were scheduled to play Lafayette on Tuesday, but the game was cancelled due to the poor field conditions that resulted from a winter snowstorm late last week.
The team will open up its MAAC season at home against Le Moyne tomorrow at noon.