Broncs win 2-of-5 in opening weekend

By Rebecca Taylor Bludgus

Rider softball’s season officially began this past weekend with a five-game tournament hosted at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, from Feb. 24-26.

While day one was against Ohio University and No. 14 Duke, day two consisted of games against Wagner College and Campbell, and the final game was one last match against Wagner.

Day 1

Rider was shutout in the first two games falling 3-0 against Ohio and 4-0 against Duke.

While contact was being made and runners were able to reach scoring position multiple times, they failed to capitalize on their position.

“We played good softball, we were putting [a] good, hard bat on [the] ball, it just wasn’t finding a gap yet,” said junior pitcher Jessie Niegocki. 

In game one, runners reached scoring position in every inning besides the first. 

In the same game, three freshmen were able to make their collegiate debuts; Julia Harsche came in pinch hit in the seventh, freshman outfielder Maddie Luedtke got the start in left field and freshman outfielder Fallyn Stoeckel pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief and allowed only one hit. 

“It was comforting knowing Maddie [Luedtke] was there behind me,” said Stoeckel. “I’m also really close to her. Julia [Harsche] is actually my roommate, so it was just really cool, like three of us on the field and the fact that all of us went in that game.”

Niegocki got the start against Duke and was able to stay and complete the game,  

Allowing five hits, four runs, three earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts. 

“We were attacking their pitcher,” Niegocki said. “We didn’t get any runs across, but we were putting good, hard softball, and obviously our defense is pretty solid. … If we can hold a Duke, then we can hold anyone in our conference.” 

Day 2

Rider got their first win of the season, 5-2, with an early morning matchup against Wagner.

Stoeckel picked up her first collegiate win and complete game, giving up six hits, two runs and seven strikeouts for her first start. 

“I tried not to let the moment get too big, I just tried to go at it like I did any other game,” she said. 

Wagner struck early, scoring two runs in the first inning, but that was all for them. 

“I trust my team that they would score and get it back, and I just had to focus on not letting anymore and not let it get too far,” Stoeckel said.

An RBI double from senior outfielder Amanda Cooper allowed Ludtke and Jadeyn Merrill to score, tying up the game. 

An RBI single from Niegocki allowed Cooper to score for the lead.

Two more runs were added to the board in the seventh with an RBI double from Niegocki, allowing Cooper to score and a flyout from senior third base Brianna Koonce that brought Neigocki in.

The tournament host won 5-1 in the Broncs’ last game of the day. 

Two runners got on in the second, but they were left on base.  

The Camels responded to that effort by getting a lead-off double, and the runner scored on a fly out to center, going on and scoring again in the third. 

Top of the fifth, the Broncs failed to move runners in scoring position again, leaving two stranded on base. 

The Camels responded to their attempts again with a run coming in during the fifth, and Campbell scored for the last time in the bottom sixth with two runs. 

Day 3

The Broncs won their final game of this weekend against Wagner 6-4, getting the early lead with a two RBI double from Wright in the first. 

Niegocki got a flyout in the top of the second, which allowed sophomore first base Olivia Burroughs to come in and score.

Wagner got on the board in the bottom of the second when a Seahawk successfully stole second base while another made it to home during the throw. 

Cooper earned the Broncs’ first home run of the season with an inside-the-park shot down the left field line.

Wagner brought in another run during the fourth and tied the score up in the sixth. 

Rider responded with an RBI single from Harsche bringing in sophomore catcher Kristyn Gardner for the lead and a sacrifice bunt from Niegicki to bring in Burroughs. 

Stoeckel earned her second win of her collegiate career, coming in during the fourth inning and going 3 2/3 innings with two hits, two runs and two strikeouts.

Niegocki had the start, and sophomore pitcher Kathryn Schmierer came into relieve her during the second inning. 

The Broncs will be on the road for their next stretch of five games, playing at the University of Texas at Arlington for their Boerner Invitational from March 3-5.

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