By J.J. Santagata
The baseball team had a long Spring Break, losing all three games against High Point on March 11 and 12, and splitting a series with Campbell on March 15 and 16. It also lost two out of three games to Virginia Military Institute on March 18 and 20.
However, Rider (4-17, 0-3 MAAC) showed signs of life. On March 23, the Broncs came from behind to beat Rutgers, 3-2, in their home opener at Sonny Pittaro Field.
In the game against the Scarlet Knights, Rider trailed for most of the game until the final inning.
Junior first baseman Tyler Kaiser had a big game. He went 2 for 4 with a solo homerun that tied the game at 1, and a double in the ninth inning that got the Broncs going.
With runners on second and third in the ninth inning, as the Broncs trailed 2-1, junior third baseman Mike Volaski hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that was caught at the wall.
Tagging up on the play, both junior catcher Lee Lipinski and Kaiser scored, with Kaiser coming around from second base just ahead of the tag.
Head Coach Barry Davis said the win was huge, especially over a school like Rutgers.
“To beat them, I think, really helped our confidence,” he said. “A school like Rutgers is out there, and they’re a Big Ten school. They’ve been a great team for years so we feel fortunate to be able to compete with them.”
Rider went onto face Monmouth for a three-game series on March 25 and 26. Starting the series, the Broncs gained an early lead but ended up falling short to Monmouth late in the game. Sophomore pitcher Nick Margevicius pitched 5.1 innings, only allowing two earned runs and striking out five.
The Broncs took a 4-1 lead in the third inning. Rider had the bats going early, but did not score another run for the rest of the game, while Monmouth surged late in the game. Trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning, a grand slam pushed the Hawks passed the Broncs, taking game one of the three-game series for the weekend.
The Broncs went on to face Monmouth the next day for a doubleheader. The Hawks won the first game of the doubleheader 6-0.
Sophomore C.J. Hirschy struck out seven but ended up allowing five runs in 5.1 innings. Junior Josh Sharik took over and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Monmouth scored four runs on five hits in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead. The Broncs got the bats going in the top of the fourth after Monmouth’s four-run inning and cut the lead by one. Offensive production came from Lipinski, who hit an RBI double, and Kaiser tallying his 10th double of the season and an RBI in the game. Sophomore infielder Chris Estevez had two hits including an RBI single in the second game.
Monmouth added a solo home run in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead, which sealed the deal.
Davis gave Monmouth credit where it was due.
“They’re a talented team over there and they did a great job of battling back against us,” he said. “We need to start focusing on doing the little things right and not focus on winning. When you worry about how you’re playing, that’s when you’ll win.”
Senior pitcher Vincent Aiello said the team recognized what it needs to work on in order to get onto winning ways.
“We saw what we need to improve on to compete and win in conference’s games,” Aiello said. “The MAAC is going to be tough this season and we’ll need to be on our A-game to pull out wins and make the tournament.”
On March 29, Rider began its title defense of the Liberty Bell Classic, which it won last season over Villanova at Citizens Bank Park.
In a home game against La Salle, the Broncs dominated from start to finish for a 5-2 win.
Freshman starter Brett Kosciolek kept La Salle’s offense in check, striking out nine in seven innings pitched.
The Broncs will play against Delaware State on March 30 on the road before taking on Fairfield.