By Chris Brooks
With the season in full swing, the Broncs opened up conference play at home on March 29 against Fairfield. Propelled by strong pitching and timely hitting, the Broncs were able to win their first conference series 2-1.
The Broncs (13-12, 2-1 MAAC) played the first game of a three-game series against Fairfield (8-15, 2-4 MAAC) and were led by a strong pitching effort from senior Tyler Smith. Smith pitched eight innings, limiting Fairfield to one run on three hits in a winning effort with a final score of 13-1.
“Pitching has been a strength this season,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “In the first game of the series, Smith had seven ‘one-two-three’ innings.”
Smith was nearly perfect except for the fourth inning, when he gave up all of Fairfield’s hits and its one run. Smith’s strong efforts were backed up in the seventh inning when the Broncs racked up eight runs on seven hits, with the biggest blow coming from junior outfielder Nick Crescenzo, who knocked in three with a double.
The following day, March 30, the Broncs continued their conference series with a doubleheader against Fairfield.
“Conference games are definitely more important because they are the games that are going to get us into the conference tournament,” said sophomore pitcher Kurt Sowa. “The only advantage that we have is that we know these teams better. We know what they like to do, who can hit and what their pitchers like to throw.”
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Broncs were assisted by multi-hit games from senior outfielder Ian Lindsay, junior outfielder Jerry Mulderig and sophomore catcher Eric Strano, winning 3-2.
In the third inning, Rider scored three runs on three hits. Fairfield inched closer in the sixth with an RBI double, but was thwarted by another strong pitching effort from Sowa.
“I think the key to my success is just knowing what to expect this year,” Sowa said. “Last year, as a freshman, I was not sure what to expect or how the hitters would react to my pitches on the college level.”
Sowa picked up the victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings giving up only two runs.
Following the first game, the Broncs continued their doubleheader, but were not as successful, losing to Fairfield 5-2.
Junior pitcher Mike Murphy tossed five scoreless innings, but the game got away from the Broncs in the sixth when the Stags scored five runs on two hits and Rider made two costly errors.
Following the conference games against Fairfield, Rider travelled to Penn State (5-19, 0-6 Big Ten) and Maryland (16-12, 4-8 ACC) for two non-conference matchups.
On April 2, the Broncs were unable to keep up offensively with Penn State and lost 9-2.
In Maryland, the Broncs called on Mulderig to the mound to stop their two-game losing streak, but in only his third career start the Broncs lost 6-3. Mulderig also batting clean up picked up four hits in the loss.
Rider will look to continue its strong play on April 6 in its second conference series at home against Canisius.
“It’s natural to put more emphasis on conference games; these are the games that take you where you want to go,” Davis said.