By Carlos Toro
Rider finished up a competitive, three-game series against Duke in which it forced two of the three games into extra innings.
Even though the Broncs (2-5) lost three games, Head Coach Barry Davis saw some positive performances in his team throughout the weekend, especially from his pitching staff.
“I like how we competed,” Davis said. “Our pitching in games one and two was outstanding. Allowing three runs in 22 innings is very solid.”
The first game on Feb. 28 against the Blue Devils (9-1) started out as a pitchers’ duel between senior left-hander Zach Mawson and Duke’s senior right-hander Andrew Istler. The game was scoreless for nine innings, as there were only eight total hits between the two teams, sending the game into extra innings.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the 11th inning, when Duke freshman outfielder Evan Dougherty hit a walk-off RBI single to give his team the 1-0 win.
Mawson, who pitched eight scoreless innings while striking out seven batters and allowing just three hits, believes he’s gotten better since his last game, when he pitched against Campbell.
“Personally, I was just more comfortable this week on the mound and felt confident from the start after throwing the week before in Campbell,” Mawson said. “The gameplan that Coach Stew had for Duke was great and I just tried to make pitches and let my defense play.”
The following day was a doubleheader and the first game was scheduled to be a seven-inning affair.
Junior Lee Lipinski hit a solo home run in the second inning to give an early lead to the visiting Broncs.
Rider junior right-hander Vincenzo Aiello, who started the first game of the doubleheader, pitched six shutout innings and struck out six.
It seemed like Rider was going to steal this game, taking its 1-0 lead into the final inning, but sophomore left-hander Mike Diorio came in for Aiello to try and get the save. After striking out the first Duke batter, Diorio allowed a double.
Senior right-hander Mike Donnely relieved Diorio and allowed another double, tying the game at one run each, and sending Rider to its second extra-inning contest of the series.
The Broncs only managed to get two hits in the four extra innings and the game came to a close in the bottom of the 11th inning when Donnely allowed another double and the runner scored on the following at-bat to give Duke a 2-1 victory.
Rider looked for a win to salvage the road trip, but the third game did not start out well. Duke scored four runs in the second inning off of freshman left-hander Nick Margevicius, which started with a bases-loaded single that scored two.
Rider then answered back in the fourth inning when junior outfielder James Locklear singled to centerfield and scored two runs to cut Duke’s lead in half.
The Blue Devils scored another run in their half of the inning which started a streak of four straight innings of scoring at least one run, extending the lead to 11-2.
The Broncs only scored one run in the ninth inning from a hit by senior shortstop Mike Parsons, but the lead was too great for Rider to overcome as it lost the third game 11-3.
Senior third baseman Nick Richter, who had three hits in the doubleheader against Duke, believes that the offense is a work in progress.
“I think we can continue to improve on our hitting,” Richter said. “But I know it is early and I think facing pitchers like we did will help us down the road come conference time.”
The Broncs were supposed to face off against Lafayette on March 3, but that game was canceled because of cold weather. They will now play a three-game series at Delaware (1-3) on March 5 and 6.
Despite suffering the three-game sweep, the players are content with the way they’ve competed, and Aiello believes they are getting better.
“Our record doesn’t show how we actually are,” he said. “Although we are 2-5, we played competitive baseball and the losses we’ve taken were all winnable games. We’re close as a team and only growing closer.”