By Kim Leder
In its season opener last Friday night, the baseball team fell short, losing to East Tennessee State University by a final score of 4-1. Shaking off the close loss, it returned for a bittersweet double-header on Saturday, dropping game one 5-4, and stealing the win in game two, 7-4. The game on Sunday was rained out.
“It would have been nice to go down with a 3-0 record,” said junior Patrick Devlin. “Now we have to battle back.”
The Broncs will have their chance to battle back this weekend when they travel to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Cornell and host top-ranked Virginia.
“Two games versus Cornell and two games versus Virginia are big challenges early on in the season,” said head coach Barry Davis. “We are looking forward to the challenge.”
To get there, the baseball team has to take what it learned this past weekend — the team learned that it isn’t about how many times it hits, but how many runs it scores.
On Friday, senior Mike Thomas, the MAAC and NJ Pitcher of the Year in 2010, went six innings and allowed only two hits, finishing with a career high of 10 strikeouts.
“Our starting pitchers, Thomas, Pat Devlin and Nate Eppley were very good,” said Davis. “Eighteen innings and six earned runs; we should win when this happens.”
During the first inning, Rider was on the board as a result of a sacrifice fly by senior A.J. Albee, scoring senior Steve Galella, who reached on an error. By the fourth inning, the Broncs had a 4-0 lead from junior Brandon Cotton who got a two-run double.
By the eighth inning, ETSU countered with a two-out RBI single. Trailing only by one, ETSU was able to get a two-run homerun off sophomore Tyler Smith to close out the game.
“We could have easily won,” said Smith. “We put the ball in play and only made one error in the field.”
On Saturday, Rider started off the double-header again leading 4-1. In the fifth inning, seniors Karl Johnson and Mason Heyne each produced an RBI single followed by a safety squeeze bunt by Albee.
ETSU tied the score in the seventh on three hits and a Rider error. During the eighth inning, ETSU closed out the game with a single, a sacrifice bunt and a double.
“The first two games we were winning 4-1 into the seventh and lost both of them 5-4,” said Devlin. “We need to work a little bit harder to have that extra edge.”
In the final game later that day, Rider got their extra edge.
The play of the game came from Galella, who hit a grand slam in a five-run fifth inning to give the Broncs a 7-1 lead. ETSU then scored three runs to cut the lead 7-4.
“Galella gave us the cushion we needed to win 7-4,” said Davis. “The good sign is we still had opportunities to win.”
Sophomore Tyler Smith collected his first save of the year while freshman Ken Kramer hit an RBI single to tie the score in the fourth inning. Senior John Ralston then helped Kramer score on a double.
On the mound, senior Nate Eppley made his first collegiate start, allowing only four runs while striking out three through six innings.
“We have worked on a few things this week in practice and are doing our best to prepare,” said freshman Jerry Mulderig. “Our team works hard and our coaches push us to do everything we can to get better every day. The MAAC championship is the team’s goal.”