By Carlos Toro
This week, the Rider softball team finished a lengthy homestand against four different opponents.
Villanova, Siena and Marist, each in doubleheader series, swept Rider from April 20-24, but the Broncs beat Saint Peter’s on April 26.
Against first-place Marist, Rider took the second game into extra innings, which Rider Head Coach Jaclyn Timko said the team should be proud of.
“That’s something I tell the players: If you show up and play, you can beat anyone,” Timko said. “The team just needs to be there to do it mentally, and that’s our biggest thing. I hope the team looks at this game and says that they fought them all the way to extra innings and almost beat them.”
In the first game of the doubleheader against Villanova (28-14, 11-4 Big East), Rider did not record a single hit and lost the first game 3-0. In the second game, the Broncs managed to get six hits and scored a run, but it was not enough to win against the Wildcats, who, at the time, had won 17 straight games.
“Our one through five hitters are very consistent,” Timko said. “We just need to work on our bottom-of-the-order hitters to get the rest of the way going. We have to find the right combination of getting all our hits lined up in a row, especially when we have runners in scoring position.”
The Broncs fared a little better against Siena (21-16, 6-6 MAAC), scoring five runs, thanks in part to designated hitter Montana Berg’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. That helped Rider tie the game at five runs apiece, but the Saints scored two runs in the top of the seventh to win the first game 7-5.
Rider allowed three runs in the first two innings in the second game of the doubleheader and the Broncs only scored one run, in the fourth inning, as they fell 3-1.
After losing the first game of the April 24 doubleheader by a score of 11-0, Rider came back and pushed Marist (36-8, 11-1 MAAC) to its limit, forcing the Red Foxes into extra innings, but losing 9-8.
Rider took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, while Marist scored a run in the fifth and sixth innings each. Broncs third baseman Emily Cottrell hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to push the lead up 5-2.
The Red Foxes mounted a comeback in the top of the seventh inning, capped off by a two-run shot to right-center field by junior right fielder Janna Korak that tied the game at five runs apiece, forcing extra innings.
Marist then scored four runs in the top of the eighth. Rider scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth, nearly beating Marist in what would have been Rider’s signature win of the season.
Being so close to winning was frustrating for the Broncs, but the team saw it as a sign of improvement.
“I definitely think that this game showed that we can compete against anyone,” Cottrell said. “The old team from a couple of weeks ago was not going to come back in the bottom in the eighth inning. We fought hard.”
The Broncs then faced Saint Peter’s (0-34, 0-11 MAAC) at home on April 26. Rider’s offense exploded in the first inning of game one of the doubleheader, scoring 10 runs.
While the Peacocks did come back, scoring runs in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings, Rider’s initial offense, helped by additional runs scored in the third and fifth innings, snapped its eight-game losing streak by winning 14-12. The second game was rained out.
Rider will travel to Columbia for a game on April 27. Timko said that the team is improving, but still needs to work on its offense.
“We have to find the right combination of getting all our hits lined up in a row, especially when we have runners in scoring position,” Timko said. “Slowly, but surely, we’re getting there.”