By Steven Eggert
After sweeping Radford last week and beating Lafayette, the Broncs travel to South Carolina for a three-game series versus the nationally ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Broncs (6-1) are currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak after a 5-3 win over Lafayette (0-7) in the home opener on March 5. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Broncs scored four runs to take a 5-3 lead capped off by a two-run single by senior outfielder Ian Lindsay that ultimately won the game. The single also marked Lindsay’s 100th career hit at Rider.
Midweek games can not only add to the win column, but they can be revealing, according to Head Coach Barry Davis.
“Midweek games are different than weekend games,” Davis said. “It sometimes is a reflection of how good your team is or isn’t. Good teams that have depth win midweek games because you go fourth, fifth in your pitching rotation, and if the pitchers are very good, then the teams are very good.”
The offense has improved because the Broncs have developed a different mental approach at the plate this year compared to last year. The message to the batters has been to challenge the opposing pitchers.
“A new philosophy our coach has been preaching is seeing more pitches,” junior outfielder/pitcher Jerry Mulderig said. “We were all a little skeptical of it because last year a lot of us liked swinging at the first pitch. It’s worked out well and that’s when you’ve got to trust your coach because he knows what he’s talking about.”
On the mound, the Bronc pitchers have a combined 3.05 ERA so far this season with opponents batting .234 against them. There is a lot of optimism among the pitching staff.
“We’ve been doing well because we worked hard in the offseason to get better,” sophomore pitcher Kurt Sowa said. “We’re trying to throw fast, throw strikes, get hitters out as quick as possible and keep the pitch count down. The way things are running, we’re just having fun playing baseball.”
This weekend, Rider takes on the sixth-ranked team in the nation, South Carolina (10-2). Though they may not be the favorites in this matchup, recent wins have given the Broncs hope that they can steal the game.
“We know we’re extreme underdogs in that series, but everybody wants to squeak one out somehow,” Mulderig said. “This past weekend against Radford was a big confidence booster for us, and I think that’s a really good thing going down there so that we don’t play intimidated by them.”
The Gamecocks are two-time College World Series champions, winning in 2010 and 2011. Their home field, Carolina Stadium, is one of the premier college baseball venues in the nation, capable of seating more than 8,200 fans.
Davis wants his players to enjoy the experience of playing in one of the most prestigious venues in college baseball.
“They’re going to have 7,000 to 8,000 people there under the lights in pretty good conditions,” Davis said. “We just have to embrace that we’re there playing on a high-level field, with a college crowd and this is what a lot of the schools down there play in. We have a chance to experience it for the weekend and hopefully it will pay dividends down the road.”