By Tom Regan
After struggling to find consistency through the first month of the season, the baseball team (6-16, 1-0 MAAC) kicked off the MAAC portion of the schedule with a victory in the opening game of the series at Quinnipiac (5-15, 2-2 MAAC) on March 29.
The victory was led by junior right-hander Kurt Sowa’s dominant eight innings of two-run ball en route to a 3-2 victory.
Sowa believes he benefited from strong defense. His ability to throw strikes and pitch to contact led to more defensive opportunities.
“I just tried to throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters,” Sowa said. “I wanted to keep my fielders in the game, and they made some great defensive plays for me.”
Rider scored all three runs in the top of the seventh inning, which began with a lead-off walk for junior second baseman Greg Fazio, who was bunted to second before junior shortstop Mike Parsons picked up his third single of the afternoon moving Fazio to third.
Then, the Broncs issued a double steal, which prompted a throwing error, allowing both Rider runners to score. The scoring continued after sophomore right fielder Brian Donnelly was walked and doubled home by junior third baseman Nick Richter.
However, because of inclement weather and poor field conditions, Rider could not squeeze the remainder of the series into the allotted three-day period that games can be postponed before cancellation.
The Broncs resumed their season with the home opener against Seton Hall (18-5) on April 1. Head Coach Barry Davis expressed the difficulty of going up against the Big East team, but believes Rider could win if it became more consistent offensively.
“Well they’re really good, they’ve been playing really well,” Davis said. “First of all, the biggest thing we haven’t done a lot of is hit with runners in scoring position.”
Unfortunately for the Broncs, their bats did not heat up until the ninth inning against Seton Hall, and they fell short 4-3.
Rider mustered seven hits, which resulted in three runs. Parsons hit a solo home run in the third inning. The Broncs rallied in the ninth, scoring two runs, but sophomore outfielder Brian Donnelly struck out looking to end the game.
Junior pitcher David Hafer started the game for the Broncs. He pitched 4.1 innings, surrendering six hits and one run while striking out two. He was relieved by freshman pitcher Josh Sharik, who gave up three unearned runs on three hits because of a throwing error by Parsons.
Rider will continue its MAAC season by hosting the 2013 MAAC runner-up, Marist, for a weekend series on April 5 and 6. Last season, the Broncs lost two of their three games against Marist.
Given the importance of conference games, Davis expects nothing short of intensity for his team and a strong offensive performance.
“These games are important, we just need to continue to swing the bat and produce runs,” Davis said. “The intensity of those games is certainly noticeable.”