By Rob Rose
The baseball team snapped a six-game losing streak with a sweep of MAAC opponent St. Peter’s. Rider’s offense exploded during the series, outscoring the opponent 39-16 on April 13 and 14.
Entering game one, the Peacocks had lost 63 consecutive games. Their last victory was against the Broncs at Sonny Pittaro Field on May 20, 2016. St. Peter’s went 0-38 last season and began 2018 at 0-24 overall.
With a team batting average of .255 and a team ERA of 6.29, this season hasn’t been an overwhelming success for Rider, who won just six of its first 27 games. In the three-game series against the Peacocks, the Broncs got back in the win column.
Junior Zack Gakeler got the start on the mound on April 13 and pitched a gem. The left-hander threw seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and striking out nine batters. Gakeler earned his first career quality start and became the first Rider pitcher to record nine strikeouts in a game since San Diego Padres’ prospect Nick Margevicius.
“I think Zack needed this to get on track,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “His velocity was good. It was a good outing. We were able to get him some run support. He gave us the innings we needed without having to use too many guys out of the bullpen.”
Junior first baseman Riley Mihalik powered the Broncs’ offense during the sweep, going 7-for-11 at the plate with three home runs and 11 RBI.
The dominant weekend from Mihalik earned him MAAC Player of the Week and gave him the team lead in home runs with four and in RBI at 22, while increasing his batting average to .303.
“Riley had a big day,” said Davis. “He relaxed and drove the ball like he’s capable of. We got a nice, warm day and the ball carried a little. It gave us a boost, and we tacked on some more.”
Senior outfielder Harrison McClure was locked in at the plate during the doubleheader on April 14. He went 5-for-10 with the bat over the two games, crushing an opposite-field home run to right-center field. McClure also had six RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He is second on the team in home runs with two and tied for first in doubles with 10.
The Broncs’ bullpen shut down the Peacocks’ offense in the series, highlighted by performances from juniors CJ Hirschy and Jordan Silverman. Hirschy tossed three and one-third scoreless innings with one hit and three strikeouts in relief of sophomore Pete Soporowski during the seven-inning contest on April 14.
Silverman entered the game in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded and only one out on April 13. The Peacocks scored five runs in the inning, and it took Silverman three pitches to shut down their late rally.
The sidearm-throwing left-hander earned a nine-out save on April 14, his second of the season. He entered the game in the seventh inning and allowed two hits in three innings.
“We needed to win these three games to get us back in the mix,” said Davis. “We reacted pretty good. They put some pressure on us. We swung the bat well. We got McClure and Riley going. We need confidence at the plate, and this helps us. We’re playing well. We handled our business today.”
After the series sweep, St. Peter’s losing streak reached 66 games. Rider has won seven consecutive games against the Peacocks and is 42-10 all-time against them.
“We can repeat the success at the plate by continuing to stick to our approach of not trying to do too much with the baseball and having quality at-bats,” said sophomore outfielder Joe Simone.
The Broncs’ record is now 9-21 overall and 4-4 in conference play. Rider returns to action with a three-game series at Manhattan on April 21 and 22 before returning home to face Rutgers, of the Big Ten on April 24 at 3:30 p.m.
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