By Thomas Albano
As the 2014 baseball season began and the MAAC Preseason Coaches Poll was released, the Broncs were predicted to finish second in the MAAC standings, with only defending conference champion Canisius standing in their way.
However, to say that the Broncs’ 2014 campaign thus far has been a struggle is an understatement — it has been a letdown.
The Broncs have played a total of 20 games this season, none of which have been conference games. Yet, the team’s performance during those 20 non-conference games has been poor, bringing it to a 5-15 record thus far.
For starters, the Broncs have been outscored overall 128-70. The biggest win for the Broncs was a 7-2 victory over Temple on Feb. 23, which was only the Broncs’ second game of the season. Six losses for Rider saw the opposition score at least 11 runs, with the largest defeat for the Broncs coming from a 23-8 loss to Western Carolina on March 15 in the first game of a doubleheader. Rider would also lose the second game 11-3.
Now, the Broncs’ opponents are decent competition. Combined, the opponents the Broncs have faced from the start of the season until now have a record of 88-89, nearly .500. However, one of those opponents, Wagner, has a 2-15 record, securing one of its wins against Rider.
You could very well argue that the team could be suffering because of constant travel, as Rider did not have a home game until March 23. The Broncs were scheduled to take on Temple at home on March 11, but the game was canceled because of cold weather. Despite being home for the first time this season, Rider dropped a game to NJIT 5-1 in 10 innings. The Broncs mustered only two hits, and NJIT gained its four go-ahead runs in the top of the 10th off of three hits, a walk and an error. So, maybe home field isn’t the top solution.
Losses to schools such as Temple, Maryland and Delaware might be fair, but losses to schools like Wagner and NJIT, who aren’t necessairly as good in athletics, and not winning a single series? That might be a problem.
The Broncs’ struggles are all around them. Offensively, they’ve been out-hit by their opponents 178-144, had only 58 RBI’s to their opponents’ 118 and were out-slugged .390-.291. There are only a few bright spots in the Broncs’ offensive lineup, the brightest of which is junior infielder Justin Thomas. Thomas has started all 20 games, hitting .347, with three home runs and 17 RBIs. Behind Thomas in RBIs is sophomore outfielder James Locklear, who has eight.
Pitching-wise, the Broncs have a team ERA of 5.55, and have given up 178 hits in 167 innings pitched.
March 29-30, the Broncs open MAAC play in a three-game series at conference newcomer Quinnipiac, which was picked to finish down in the bottom of the conference. If the Broncs want to get to their winning ways from last season, there’s no fooling around. They have to come prepared to win the series, if not sweep.