By Steven Eggert
The Rider baseball team (9-22) heads home to play the Manhattan Jaspers (14-17) in its first home series in April. The team will play in a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 12 p.m., and finish the series on Sunday.
The Broncs have spent their last four games on the road. Last weekend, they won the series against the Fairfield Stags, (13-19) taking two of their three games.
On Wednesday, they had a tough 6-5 loss at Monmouth (20-12). They gave up six runs in the final inning after scoring five in the top of the ninth. Sophomore Jerry Mulderig was frustrated not only because they blew the lead, but because it was to an in-state rival.
“It was tough because we had the game in our hands in the ninth inning,” Mulderig said. “Then a couple of us just [messed] up in our bullpen. The fact that they’re in-state, and a big rival — it sucks to lose to them.”
Junior third baseman Adam Wayman, who did not play in the game because of a cortisone shot, was also upset that the team lost as a result of the large lead.
“We put up five runs and I’m thinking that we got a win to give us momentum going into this weekend,” Wayman said. “[Monmouth] put us down, and I’ll tell you what, that was a heartbreaker. I couldn’t imagine being there for that.”
Lately, Mulderig has both pitched and played the outfield effectively to help the Broncs. In last weekend’s doubleheader against Fairfield, he had four hits, including a game winning RBI, and finished the game off with a save. In the last four games, he had six hits, five RBIs and two innings pitched.
“It’s a great feeling to go play eight innings in the outfield and then come in and close out the game as a pitcher,” Mulderig said. “The game against Fairfield was the best moment of my sports career doing that. I came into the year just as an outfielder and I really just wanted to win right field as a starting position. Then eventually, I started to do well and then coach asked me if I would play and I’ve had a good experience.”
This weekend, Rider takes on Manhattan, who currently is in the midst of a ten-game winning streak. Wayman hopes that the Broncs can win the series, but realizes it will be a challenging three games.
“What I know about Manhattan is they’ve always had a good team,” Wayman said. “They have good hitting and pitching, but we always had it too, and every time we played them it’s a battle. I’m expecting us to take two of three from them at the very least and win the series.”
Mulderig agreed that the players will need to work hard at the plate to win just like they were able to do once last year.
“We know their starting pitchers, but we have got to get on them early because last year we didn’t score that much,” Mulderig said. “And then pitching-wise, our starters are going to be on point like they always are and we just have to get the bats moving early. I remember last year the games were really scrappy, the kind of games with pitching duels. I expect it to be a lot like that. A lot of bunts, a lot of small ball and any way we can manufacture runs.”
Wayman thinks that throughout the season, the Broncs have not been consistent with the bats, but feels that when they do they will become a much better team.
“I feel [our batting] is starting to come together a little bit and I think we just need to be a little more patient at the plate,” Wayman said. “Drawing more walks, forcing the pitchers to throw more pitches and anything like that. We just have to have solid at bats all the time, and our pitching is starting to come around, and once we put everything together we will be a tough team.”
Mulderig feels that even though the bullpen struggled in the Monmouth game, its pitching has been getting the job done.
“We’re starting to come around with the bats, but pitching-wise, our starters Mike Murphy, Tyler Smith, Kurt Sowa — they’ve all been phenomenal,” Mulderig said. “There are times late in our games where our bullpen needs to finish the game and we haven’t been able to do that like [on Wednesday]. We’ll get it together.”