By Corey Donetz
The Broncs head north for the weekend as the team looks to flip the switch and turn it on against MAAC rival Fairfield this weekend. The series begins with a doubleheader on Saturday with games set for noon and 3:30 p.m., followed by a game on Monday at noon.
Rider (7-20, 2-4 MAAC) extended its losing streak to six consecutive games with a 2-1 loss to NJIT on Tuesday. The Broncs have been through ups and downs this season, but with 28 regular season games remaining, including 16 at home, the season is far from over.
“We have to keep at it,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “It’s easy when things are going well. When they are not, we find out who has the character and ability to work out of it.”
Fairfield (11-17, 2-4 MAAC) comes into the weekend off a 9-0 win against Fordham on Tuesday. The Stags and Broncs have had their share of struggles, as both teams endured tough road-heavy schedules to start the season. While neither teams’ records may show it, both squads have showed their abilities in spurts this season.
“The key to the series this weekend is for us to put everything together as a team,” junior Tyler Smith said. “We are showing flashes of brilliance but then we kill it by making mistakes and not playing to the best of our abilities. If we can put a full nine-inning game together and play as hard as we can, while eliminating the mistakes, we will win.”
Smith is listed as the team’s closer, but has pitched 24 2/3 innings in 15 appearances, displaying his versatility and importance to team. Smith has punched out 21 batters, while only allowing four free passes and posting a 1.82 ERA.
“Baseball is a strange game,” Smith said. “Anything can happen at any time. It is our duty as a pitching staff to allow less runs than we score as a team, no matter what the number.”
Rider has shown what it is capable of in each aspect of the game, but the Broncs’ biggest woe has been the lack of consistency.
“I am not sure if it is improvement we need,” sophomore Mike Murphy said. “We have good players and coaches, but what we need is consistency.”
Each game is an opportunity to turn things around, but the sooner things come together, the better.
“This weekend’s games are very important so we can bounce back from last weekend,” Murphy said. “For the remainder of the season, it won’t be so much about who we are facing, but moreso about ourselves, our mindset and execution as a team.”
Murphy has seen the same success this season on the mound as Smith. The 6’2” righthander has lived up to expectations after being redshirted and sitting out last season. Murphy’s 2.09 ERA is the best among starting pitchers in the MAAC. However, his 1-3 record doesn’t indicate the way he has pitched.
“To be honest, I could care less about my record,” Murphy said. “Don’t get me wrong — I want to win, but more than that I want to go out every start and do my job. My job is to go out there every first game of the series and set the tone, throw strikes and keep my team in the ball game. If I do that, then that is all I need.”
It’s always easy to pinpoint one thing wrong when a team is going through a rough stretch, but the important thing is to play through it and try to progress each day.
“[We need to] play better, pitch better, catch the ball and have quality at-bats,” Davis said.
Following the series at Fairfield, the Broncs will travel to West Long Branch, N.J., to take on the Monmouth Hawks.
“Although our record does not show it, when everything comes together, we can play with anyone,” Murphy said.