Broncs still in the Hunt

Junior catcher Sean Olson hit a two-run homer to win the first game in Rider’s series against Iona. Olson finished the day with another home run, the seventh of the year, and a double.By Charles Guthrie

It’s been a back-and-forth season for the Rider baseball team in the MAAC this season.

Rider has lost every other series it has played in the MAAC and was a game under .500 heading into its matchup versus the Iona Gaels over the weekend.

To continue the pattern, that would mean the three-game set at New Rochelle, N.Y., against Iona would end in Rider’s favor. That’s exactly what happened as the Broncs swept the Gaels in a key series that has Head Coach Barry Davis’ group fourth in the MAAC at the half way point in the conference season.

“Getting three wins was huge for us and that was our mind set going into the series,” junior utility fielder Jamie Hayes said.

In the opener on Saturday, Rider needed some late-inning magic for the victory. The Broncs rallied for four runs in the frame, aided by two Gael fielding gaffes, to steal the game. After sophomore outfielder Nick Wojonowski and Hayes cut the deficit to one with RBI singles, Iona literally threw the game away.

With the bases loaded, freshman infielder Carlo Petrillo struck out, but a passed ball allowed senior outfielder Jon Leise to score the tying run from third. Hayes moved to third on the play, but then a throwing error by Iona’s junior catcher Andrew Wernicki allowed him to score the game-deciding run.

Late-inning thunder was the theme for the weekend for Rider as junior catcher Sean Olson tagged senior pitcher Nick Stanziani for a two-run homer in the eighth to break a 2-2 tie in the first game of a twin bill on Sunday.

“I remember being behind in the count,” Olson said on his game-winning blast. “He had thrown me an up and away fastball for strike two and after that, a change in the dirt. He came back with the same pitch and I got a good pitch to hit and hit it just right.”

Junior pitcher Jimmer Kennedy started for the Broncs and had a no-decision, throwing six innings, scattering five hits for two earned runs and also had five strikeouts. In four MAAC starts, Kennedy has a 2-1 record with a 3.22 ERA.

The bats came alive for the Broncs in the rubber game scoring in the first seven innings for a 16-8 win. David and Jamie Hayes combined for six hits, four RBIs and four runs at the top of the order. Olson had a solid day at the plate hitting his second dinger of the day ­— his seventh of the year — and a double.

“The count was 2-1, which is more in my favor,” Olson said on his second homer of the day. “He had thrown all off-speed pitches so I was sitting on a fastball and when I got it I just tried to put a good swing on it.”
Junior pitcher Dan Sasso threw four innings of relief to improve to 3-1 on the season.

On Tuesday, the Broncs fell to Monmouth, 11-4, in a non-conference tilt on the road.

The next day, Rider took care of business against NJIT, winning 8-1 at Sonny Pittaro Field.

The Broncs will travel up to Connecticut for a three-game set against Fairfield, starting with a doubleheader on Saturday.

“We’re playing for a regular season title,” Jamie Hayes said. “It starts this weekend and we’re going there to get three wins.”

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