By Shaun Chornobroff
The baseball team opened up its 2020 season with a sweep on the road against Charleston Southern.
Pitcher Pete Soporowski started his senior season with a dominating performance, allowing only one run in six and one- third innings, en route to a 5-1 win in the Broncs’ season opener.
Soporowski spoke highly of the team’s first few games.
“The overall performance was pretty strong for us,” Soporowski stated. “It’s a great feeling to win, but we aren’t satisfied yet. It’s a long season and we are going to continue to build off of this, day in and day out.”
Sophomore infielder David Bermudez proved to have driven in the game winning run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly to right field. Bermudez was Rider’s most consistent hitter in the game, going 2 for 2, with three RBI.
Bermudez gave his thoughts on Rider’s performance in the series.
“To win three games this weekend was great,” the sophomore infielder explained. “None of us feel like we played our best baseball, we are focused on getting better and improving each time we take the field.”
The second contest of the day was a 12-inning thriller that Rider escaped from with a 6-4 victory.
Rider took a 4-3 lead in the 12th inning when a wild pitch from Charleston Southern’s Jordan Bridges scored freshman infielder John Volpe, who was in the game as a pinch runner.
Senior outfielder Joe Simone’s two-run single to right field in the same inning pushed Rider’s lead to 6-3, and ended up being enough to win the game.
Simone would explain his approach during the at-bat.
“Coach always talks about hitting the ball and good things will happen,” Simone said of his late game heroics. “My approach at the plate was to hit the ball hard and I was lucky enough to find a hole, it was a great team win.”
Kyle Horton led off the bottom of the 12th with a home run, but that was all the Broncs’ would allow as they won their second game of the day.
Despite scoring six runs, Rider only scored in two different innings.
In the sixth inning freshman Scott Shaw, came in as a pinch hitter and drove in two runs to get the Rider on the board. It was the infielder/outfielder’s first career at bat.
Later that inning, a wild pitch scored senior catcher Chris Roan to tie the score at three.
Rider Head Coach Barry Davis spoke of the team’s ability to bounce back in the game.
“We battled all day,” Davis said. “Allowing three runs in the fifth, we bounce back and match it with three in the next inning, that’s always a good sign.”
Rider’s bullpen was dominant in the double header, only allowing one run in 10 and two-thirds innings.
The next day, Rider secured a sweep over Charleston Southern with a 7-6 victory.
The game lasted only six innings due to weather, but the last inning was exciting to say the least.
The teams entered the last inning knotted up at 2-2, but senior infielder Zack Fick punished two early inning walks with an RBI double to make the score 3-2.
In the next at-bat a wild pitch and a passed ball scored Fick and freshman pitcher/outfielder Brendan O’Donnell to make the score 5-2.
After Volpe and senior infielder Kyle Johnson both walked, Shaw’s single loaded the bases, to bring up senior outfielder Sebastian Williamson.
Despite, being in an 0-2 count, Williamson drove two runs in on a single to push Rider’s lead to 7-2.
Rider loaded the bases again but back-to-back strikeouts ended the offensive outburst.
Although they scored seven runs, Davis was not satisfied with Rider’s offense.
“We cannot expect five runs every time we need them,” Davis explained. “What we hope to attain is consistency in our at-bats and show the ability to hit in various situations, we have a long way to go offensively to be where we want to be.”
After a pop out in the first at-bat, two walks and a single meant the bases were filled for Charleston Southern in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Josh Asbil, who only had one home run last season, took advantage of a 3-1 count with a grand-slam to right field, bringing Charleston Southern within one run.
The next three at bats were a single, a strikeout and a hit-by-pitch, which set up first and second with two-outs.
Rider junior pitcher Joe Papeo forced Kyle Sandstorm to fly out to center field securing the series sweep for the Broncs.
The Broncs’ offense was consistent all weekend, scoring 18 runs in three games, but their defense may be a cause for concern in the future.
Rider allowed only 11 runs in the series, but had six errors in their first three games.
Davis acknowledged the early struggles, but had confidence in his players.
“No concern, errors happen,” Davis said. “It was the first weekend, it was the first time on a field other than turf, if there is an area that can be an issue early it can be defense.”
Davis concluded the statement by complimenting his pitching staff.
“That being said, we gave up 11 runs and only one was unearned,” Davis said. “The pitching helped tremendously in this case.”
Rider hopes to continue its hot start when it travels south for a three-game series against East Tennessee State from Feb. 21 to 23.