By Corey Donetz
The Broncs brought out the brooms this past weekend, sweeping a key three-game series at Marist (21-8, 4-4 MAAC). Rider is now heading into its three-game set against Siena this weekend, riding a five-game winning streak.
Last weekend began with a doubleheader in which both games were decided by just one run. The Broncs (19-10, 8-1 MAAC) won the first game, 4-3, and the second game, 3-2. Rider completed the sweep with a 4-2 victory on Sunday.
“We played well,” said Head Coach Barry Davis.
In the final matchup, the two teams were knotted at two until the top of the eighth inning when senior Mason Heyne broke the tie with an RBI double that scored junior Brandon Cotten. The RBI gave Heyne 168 for his Rider career, tying the school record.
“Being the RBI record holder is an awesome accomplishment,” said Heyne. “It means a lot to me. [The record] was in the back of my mind but I just concentrated on doing everything I could to help us win games.”
Heyne had two of Rider’s four RBIs while Cotten had two hits as well as two runs scored.
Senior Jeff Giordano earned the win in relief of sophomore Joe Calogero, who pitched a solid 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run. Senior John Ralston tacked on an RBI single in the top of the ninth inning to add insurance before the ball was handed to sophomore Tyler Smith, who closed the game by striking out the side.
Smith recorded a save in all three games and was awarded MAAC Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. Smith has saved each game during Rider’s five-game winning streak and now has nine on the season.
“He has been dependable,” Davis said. “He’s been in a lot of close games. He is the closer.”
The Broncs opened the weekend with a doubleheader that began with Marist jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. It held up until the fifth inning when the Broncs erupted with four runs. The rally began with a fielding error, a hit batter and two walks, which were followed by a key two-run single by senior A.J. Albee. An RBI single by Heyne immediately followed Albee’s single.
“All of the games had a feeling of great importance,” said Heyne. “We came ready to go. Our pitching was awesome and we got some big hits all weekend.”
Albee and Heyne combined for five hits and three RBIs. Sophomore Mike O’Reilly was on base four times with two base hits and two walks. Cotten had an RBI walk as well as a run scored but had his 13-game hitting streak snapped.
The four-run outburst would be enough for senior Mike Thomas, who pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs to pick up his fourth win of the season and 24th of his Rider career, which is just two shy of the school record.
In the second game, both teams struggled to bring runs across the plate. The game was tied at 2 until the top of the seventh inning when Cotten broke the tie with an RBI single, scoring sophomore Adam Wayman, who had previously reached on a fielding error and moved to second on a sacrifice groundout by Albee.
“It was a first-pitch fastball right down the middle and I put a good swing on it and the ball found a hole,” said Cotten. “In my previous at-bats, I was letting that first pitch down the middle go by and I wasn’t going to let that one in that at bat-go.”
The single gave Rider the 3-2 lead, which would end up being the final score.
Senior Nate Eppley pitched six innings, giving up just one earned run as he picked up his fourth win of the season. Smith then came in to close the game.
Cotten and Heyne each had two hits and an RBI in the win.
Rider looks to ride the momentum into this weekend’s series with Siena.
“We are starting to play really good baseball at the right time,” said Heyne. “Everyone is confident and we all believe.”