Broncs’ struggles continue in MAAC play
By Rob Rose
Coming off a sweep of hapless St. Peter’s, the baseball team lost a road series against Manhattan. Rider split a doubleheader with the Jaspers on April 21 before losing on April 22.
After a dominating start his last time out with seven scoreless innings and nine strikeouts, junior Zack Gakeler took the loss in game one. The left-hander couldn’t escape the first inning, lasting just two-thirds of the first frame and allowing five runs.
The Broncs managed only two runs during the 12-2 defeat in game one. Junior infielder Richie Tecco laid down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning to bring home senior outfielder Christian Estevez. Freshman catcher Liam Harding delivered a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, scoring junior first baseman Riley Mihalik.
Rider’s offense broke out early in game two, scoring four runs in the first two frames. Junior catcher Brennan McAllister drove in a run to put the Broncs on the board first, bringing in sophomore outfielder Joe Simone. McAllister came around to score on a sacrifice fly by sophomore catcher Tyler Stockwell. McAllister had a career day at the plate, going 5-for-5 with four runs scored and an RBI.
“We showed some resilience in game two after a poor performance in game one,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “We swung the bat well against a good pitcher.”
Rider received a solid effort on the mound from sophomore Pete Soporowski. The southpaw tossed five and one-third innings allowing four runs, three earned. Soporowski earned his third win of the season, giving him the team lead in wins.
Junior CJ Hirschy recorded his first save of the season in relief of Soporowski, allowing one hit and one walk in one and two-third scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
With the game tied at four, sophomore infielder Kyle Johnson broke the contest open with a triple to left center field, driving in Stockwell. The Broncs added three more runs to secure the 8-4 victory.
“Johnson’s hit was a big one,” said Davis. “We had big days from several guys.”
During the conclusion of the series on April 22, Rider received a breakout performance from one of its young starting pitchers. Freshman Vincent Vitacco had his best start of the season, going seven and one-third innings with five strikeouts and two runs allowed.
“Vitacco was as good today as anyone we’ve had all year,” said Davis. “He gave us a chance to win, and it is all you can ask. It was a quality start.”
Vitacco exited the game with a 2-1 lead and a runner on in the bottom of the eighth. Junior Jordan Silverman took over out of the bullpen and allowed the tying run a triple by Manhattan’s Matt Padre.
The game-winning hit was delivered later in that frame after Padre scored on a single. The Broncs lost the nail-biting contest, 3-2.
Senior outfielder Harrison McClure was the lone offensive contributor in the game, crushing a two-run home run in the sixth inning. McClure is tied for the team lead in home runs with Mihalik at four.
Rider is now 10-23 overall this season and 5-6 in MAAC play.
“I still think there is a good chance we can make the MAAC Tournament,” said Silverman. “There are still a lot of games to be played, but if we just manufacture runs, pitch well and throw strikes, we should be in every series.”
The Broncs head to St. Joseph’s on April 25 before returning home for a weekend series with MAAC opponent Canisius, beginning at 12 p.m. on April 28.