By J.J. Santagata
The baseball team is headed back to the Liberty Bell Classic title game following a pair of wins against Fairfield and a walk-off win over Lehigh.
In a mid-week game against Delaware State (5-22, 5-3 MEAC), junior first baseman Tyler Kaiser had an RBI single to right field, scoring sophomore outfielder Brian Uliana. Junior third baseman Mike Volaski’s two-run double to center brought in Kaiser and sophomore infielder Jake Bender, cutting the lead by one. Bender added an RBI in the fourth and scored on a throwing error to make it 5-4 in favor of the Broncs.
Once Rider (8-18, 2-4 MAAC)gained the lead, there was no looking back. The team’s five runs in the sixth inning pushed it past the Hornets.
Kaiser started off the scoring with a single, scoring junior outfielder Dalton Mayberry and Uliana.
Big production came from sophomore infielder Christian Estevez, who registered three RBIs in the sixth off a double to left, scoring Volaski, Kaiser and junior catcher Lee Lipinski.
Rider had six pitchers in the game. Junior Josh Sharik threw 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing no hits and striking out two, and sophomore Andrew Tumbelty shut the door by striking out two in a scoreless ninth inning.
“If we keep playing defense behind our strong starters, getting them deep into the game, then we will find success,” Lipinski said.
Rider’s 14-hit fest on April 1 against Fairfield (8-15, 1-2 MAAC) pushed it past Fairfield in the first of three meetings for the weekend. With the bases loaded, Lipinski hit a grand slam to give the Broncs a 4-1 lead. Lipinski had a huge day for the Broncs, adding another RBI in the seventh inning to make it 5-1. Lipinski’s five-RBI day was the first time since 2013 a Bronc has tallied five RBIs in a game.
“If we continue hitting in clutch situations, we will be able to continue our recent success,” Lee Lipinski added.
Sophomore pitcher Nick Margevicius pitched 6.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs for his sixth career win. Despite the Broncs’ defense committing four errors, the Broncs’ strong offensive production held them in the game.
Kaiser tripled in the seventh inning to give Rider a 6-1 lead. Senior outfielder James Locklear singled for career hit No. 150.
Fairfield’s two-run rally in the seventh was stopped quickly by Rider’s Sharik pitching 1.2 innings of hitless, scoreless relief.
Sophomore pitcher Paul Sparano then pitched a hitless, scoreless ninth inning for his first save of the year. The Broncs went on to to win 6-3 to take the first of three meetings of the weekend.
“We hope to keep things rolling and continue to do our individual jobs to help the team,” Bender said.
Taking one of two games on April 2 seemed to give the Broncs the confidence they needed. Fairfield took a 5-2 lead in the third inning, but Rider responded with a two-run, four-hit fourth inning, cutting the deficit to one. Rider took a 6-5 lead with two runs in the sixth inning when Estevez doubled and scored on a wild pitch.
No team could hold the lead until late in the seventh, when with two outs, Estevez kept the inning alive with a single to left field to later score on an error by Fairfield junior infielder Michael Conti. That would wrap it up and give the Broncs a 7-6 win in game one.
“This game really showed the fight we have and that we can overcome any deficit,” Bender said.
Game two was a bumpy ride for the Broncs as it was all Fairfield. Holding a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning, the Stags added another three in the sixth to make it 8-1, and another two in the seventh for a 10-1 lead. The Broncs fell short 13-1 to the Stags.
Ten of the 13 runs scored by the Stags came in the fifth inning or later, with sophomore C.J. Hirschy allowing eight earned runs and 12 hits in 5.1 innings pitched.
Against Lehigh (10-18, 1-3 Patriot League) on April 5, Rider was able to stay undefeated at Sonny Pittaro Field. In a wild, back-and-forth game, the Broncs escaped 10-9 off a pop-fly in the 10th inning that fell to drive home the winning run.
In the final of the Liberty Bell Classic, Rider will look to defend its title against the winner of the St. Joseph’s/Villanova semifinal game. The contest will be on April 26 at Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.