By Jordan Hall
The Rider softball team is looking to make steady improvements for the 2009 campaign, returning nine players from last season’s squad and adding six talented newcomers. The Broncs finished 12-34 overall and 4-12 in the MAAC last year, giving themselves motivation for progressive strides.
“Last season we played in so many close games but could never get that big hit or pitch,” said Head Coach Patricia Carroll.
Carroll, who is entering her 15th season with Rider, is very excited with this group.
“Our lineup is much deeper this season, and we have some serious speed this year,” she said. “We’ve been excited since the first practice in the fall.”
Carroll led the Broncs to a 35-win season in 2004, tying the school record, and also made an appearance in the MAAC championship. Rider wants to regain this status, and it tried to start by kicking off the season at the UNCG Classic in North Carolina.
The Broncs took on a tough doubleheader Friday, Feb. 27, as they matched up with host UNC-Greensboro and Ohio. Both teams came in with experience, as the Spartans and Bobcats each had double-digit games already under their belts.
“We always open up against quality non-conference opponents,” Carroll said. “I always believe in playing the toughest schedule we can.”
The rustiness showed as Rider could only muster one hit in game one and three in the night cap while being shut out on the day. The Broncs were outscored a combined 22-0, losing 8-0 to UNC-Greensboro in five innings, and 14-0 to Ohio in six innings.
“We came out swinging the bats, and we talked about not striking out looking, which we didn’t do much of,” Carroll said. “The caliber of pitching we saw was a bit above our conference.”
Junior outfielder and utility player Candice Harris had the lone hit in game one for Rider, lacing a double down the left field line in the bottom of the fourth.
“I’m proud of them for swinging the bats,” Carroll said. “They weren’t intimidated; they just couldn’t connect.”
The Spartans put up three runs in the first and a four spot in the third, grabbing a comfortable lead early in the game and never looking back.
The Broncs hung around early in game two until the Bobcats finally exploded for eight runs in the top of the sixth, putting the contest out of reach. Freshmen Rachel Matreale and Kelly Krisch both pitched in their first collegiate game, gaining valuable experience.
Junior college transfer Allyson Melia, sophomore Brittany Eckett and senior Katy Mills all connected for singles, totaling Rider’s three hits.
The road ahead for the Broncs doesn’t get any easier as Rider takes on Virginia on Saturday for another doubleheader. The Cavaliers enter the matchup 11-5 overall and compete in the ACC, a powerhouse conference.
“This is a different level, but we’re excited about it,” Carroll said. “You can’t beat the best unless you play the best.”
Game one is set for 1 p.m. with game two following at 3 p.m.