By Steven Eggert
For the second straight weekend, the Rider baseball team (11-24, 6-6 MAAC) will play a weekend series at home versus a MAAC opponent. This weekend, it will face the Marist Red Foxes (13-19, 5-6 MAAC) who are currently on a three-game win streak.
Last weekend, the Broncs ended Manhattan’s 10-game winning streak by taking two out of three games in the series.
Rider Manager Barry Davis felt positive about last weekend’s performance.
“Winning two of three is always big,” Davis said. “Especially versus a team that most likely will be in the top four. It helps with the tiebreakers at the end of the season. It needs to continue.”
On Wednesday, the Broncs lost a tough game on the road against Long Island (15-23) by a score of 10-8. Senior outfielder Brandon Cotten led the team with four hits, including a game-tying triple in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 8-8. However, the team’s late-inning woes continued as it gave up two runs in the bottom of the same inning, which gave it another loss in the column.
“We aren’t executing late in the game,” Cotten said. “That’s the bottom line. We need to get guys out with our pitching and we need to have some clutch hits late in the game. We need to do better and play all nine innings. If we do that we will be fine.”
In addition, the Broncs’ pitching gave up 11 hits and also walked 10 guys, giving Long Island numerous scoring opportunities.
Davis felt that the high amount of walks hurt the team the most.
“We can’t walk 10 guys,” Davis said. “We have to take outs when they are giving them to you.”
This weekend, Rider hopes to fix its troubles against Marist, who is coming off a doubleheader sweep against Binghamton.
The Broncs have won five of their last six games against the Red Foxes, including a three-game sweep on the road last season. Despite Rider’s recent success against them, Cotten feels that Marist will provide a resiliency that makes them tough to beat.
“Marist is always a tough team,” Cotten said. “They never give up when they are behind and they have pretty solid starting pitching. We have had some success against them in the past and need to play better than them this weekend in order to be successful. We need to hit, pitch and play solid defense and we will come out with a series win.”
Davis agreed with his starting centerfielder.
“Marist is always a contender,” Davis said. “We need to be at our very best to win a game. I am not sure of the mindset, but it better be one that has a sense of urgency and one that will promote a high quality of play.”
Since the beginning of the year, Rider has made a few roster changes that have benefited the team both on the mound and in the batting order.
Cotten, who started the year batting mostly in the clean-up spot, is the current leadoff hitter.
Junior pitcher Tyler Smith, who was a second team preseason All-American selection, moved to the starting rotation. He is likely to start in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Marist.
The last significant change is sophomore Jerry Mulderig becoming a starting right fielder and pitching in the closer’s role for the ninth inning of ballgames.
“Jerry is playing well and deserves to be in the lineup, Smitty is a great pitcher and when he is on the mound gives us a chance to win everytime and I’ve always liked hitting lead off,” Cotten said. “I feel comfortable there. We have a balanced lineup now and are starting to hit the ball well.”
With only a month remaining in the season, the Broncs hope to win more games and be able to compete in the four-team MAAC Championship in late May. Despite their record, the Broncs are in third place in the MAAC Conference.
“We have 12 league games remaining,” Davis said. “They will decide whether or not we will participate in the post season. It is clearly on our shoulders.”
Cotten is optimistic about Rider’s chances in the MAAC tournament, but first the team must get there.
“We just want to make the tournament,” Cotten said. “If we can do that, I have a good feeling we can win that thing. So we just need to continue to win conference games and each series.”