By Cord Stasolla
The Rider baseball team’s bats came alive over the past four games, although the Broncs were able to win only two of them. Rider won one game in a three-game series against Fairfield on Saturday and Monday before pummeling NJIT on Wednesday, 19-3.
The Broncs fell 5-2 on Saturday against Fairfield but bounced back to grab a 9-8 victory in the second game of the day. On Monday, Rider lost 9-8 to the Stags in a game that was decided in the final at-bat.
The team entered the weekend having lost three of its last four games. However, the Broncs (12-13 overall, 2-4 MAAC) didn’t let that affect their game against Fairfield allowing just two runs through the first seven innings. Their efforts were supported by junior pitcher Mike Thomas who allowed just one walk and struck out nine in seven innings.
“Mike threw an outstanding game,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “He deserved a more favorable outcome than a loss.”
Fairfield (10-12 overall, 3-3 MAAC) hit a solo home-run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Rider responded in the top of the fifth when left fielder senior Nick Wojnowski doubled and later scored on a double by freshman third baseman Adam Wayman. The run tied the score at 1-1.
Wojnowski led off the seventh inning with his fourth homerun of the season, giving Rider a 2-1 edge. Although tight through the first seven innings, Fairfield broke the game open with an RBI single by freshman Anthony Hajjar and a two-run homerun by junior Carmine DeVito in the bottom of the eighth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie. All of Fairfield’s five runs were scored with two outs.
“It’s tough giving up the runs with two outs, especially when you had the same opportunities on offense,” said Davis. “But you need to give Fairfield credit: Clutch hitting in close games is key to their winning.”
Rider was unable to respond in the top of the ninth inning, and Fairfield held on to defeat the Broncs. Wojnowski went three for four in the losing effort, finishing with one RBI.
“Any way to contribute to the team by getting on base or driving in runs gives us a chance to win which is our main goal. Going 3-4 felt great but overall we didn’t get the job done. Hits are contagious so if we can get the bats rolling consistently as a team, we will be unstoppable on offense,” said Wojnowski.
Fairfield scored one run in the first inning of the second game, but the Broncs were able to plate two runs in the top of the second on an RBI double from Wojnowski and an RBI single by senior Eric Woodrow.
Thegame seesawed, with Fairfield taking the lead in the bottom of the third inning on back-to-back solo homeruns and Rider taking a 5-4 lead in the top of the fifth on a solo homerun by junior Mason Heyne.
The contest ended up being tied at seven after the scheduled seven innings. In the first extra inning, both teams scored single runs to send the game into the ninth. Junior second baseman A.J. Albee led off with a bunt single and stole second to get into scoring position.
Sophomore pinch hitter Ryan Murphy smacked a single that scored Albee and gave Rider a 9-8 lead.
With freshman pitcher Mike Murphy on the mound for Rider, Fairfield failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Broncs a 9-8 victory.
“Mike kept battling and was able to get the final three outs for us,” said Davis. “We showed some toughness, especially at the plate today and it was a good win on the road.”
Albee finished the game 4-5, with two runs scored and one RBI, while Murphy finished 1-2 with the go-ahead RBI.
“A.J. has been consistent all year,” said Davis. “He scored the winning run in the eighth by reaching base on a bunt hit. He has given us good at bats each time he goes to the plate.”
Rider went into Monday looking to win back-to-back games, once again facing Fairfield in Connecticut.
Although down four runs early, the Broncs battled and continually kept the game close. Twice they cut the lead to just one, first in the sixth inning on a lead-off solo homerun by Albee, which cut Fairfield’s lead to 4-3, and then in the seventh on a three-run triple by Albee, which cut the lead to 8-7.
Heyne hit a single that plated junior right fielder Karl Johnston in the top of the ninth to tie the game at eight apiece. But in the bottom of the ninth, Fairfield loaded the bases with just one out. Junior catcher Chris Horning singled into left field, giving the Stags a 9-8 walk-off victory.
On Wednesday, the Broncs faced the New Jersey Institute of Technology (4-20 overall) at Sonny Pitaro Field.
“We’ve put last weekend away,” Davis said, referring to the games against Fairfield. “We’re moving forward.”
Rider moved forward very quickly, as freshman third baseman Adam Wayman capped off a four-run first inning with a two-run triple.
Wayman finished the day 1-3 with two RBIs. The Broncs scored an additional six runs in the second to extend its lead to 10-0.
Rider did most of its scoring early in the game, compiling all 19 runs in the first five innings of the game. The Broncs ended the contest with 17 hits. It was a much different story from when the two teams met last year, as the Broncs lost at NJIT 5-3.
“We had a chance to get a lot of players in the game,” Davis said. “It’s good to keep guys as sharp as possible during the year. Overall, we had more than one person contribute today. It was a good team win for us.”
Albee finished the day 3-3 with a pair of triples and three RBIs. Albee had a total of nine hits, including three triples, in his last four games.
“A.J. has been very consistent this year,” said Davis. “He leads by example and works extremely hard at his game.”
The Broncs will face Manhattan in a doubleheader at Sonny Pitaro Field on Saturday, at 12 p.m., and then again on Sunday at 12 p.m. Rider will also face Seton Hall on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at home.