E. Tennessee State takes two of three from Rider

Sophomore pitcher James Kennedy struck out eight batters and walked just one in four and one-third innings worth of work as Rider won 17-3 in the second game of a three-game series.By Charles Guthrie

Look at it this way: in comparison to last year, not bad so far.

The Rider baseball team began its 2007 season last weekend by losing two of three road games against East Tennessee State University (ETSU), which is rather solid footing considering that the last time the team headed south, at the start of last season, it began the year with a murky 0-11 record.

“The two games we lost were by two runs each,” Head Coach Barry Davis told Rider Sports Information. “We would have liked to have gotten one of those. Overall, we played well enough to win the series. But we got a win. Last year it took us a while to get that first win, so maybe we’ll get another win or two next weekend and put together a good year.”

In the opening game, the Broncs (1-2 overall) tied the score in the eighth with RBI hits by sophomore shortstop Jamie Hayes and freshman first baseman Matt McCollum. ETSU (6-3 overall), however, would go on to score two runs in the bottom of the inning to clinch the 5-3 win. Junior pitcher Will O’Connor pitched well, allowing only two runs on four hits in five innings.

According to sophomore catcher Sean Olson, O’Connor is a crafty left-hander who pitched effectively because he was hitting all his spots.

“Will was successful this weekend because he kept the ball low,” said Olson. “He really took advantage of the outside corner with both his fastball and his change-up.”
Because a weather report confirmed that rain was in the forecast for Sunday, the third game of the series was moved to Saturday, thus turning the afternoon into a doubleheader.

Thanks largely to the dominance of sophomore pitcher James Kennedy, who struck out eight batters and walked only one in just over four innings of work, Rider effortlessly won the first game by a football-like score of 17-3. The Broncs tallied 24 hits in the game and all nine starters got a hit.

Hayes went four-for-five (two doubles and five RBIs) and Olson had three hits with two home runs. Junior centerfielder John Leise also had four hits. Sophomore second baseman Adam Tussey and senior third baseman Jeffrey Reynolds added three hits a piece.

“In the second game everyone swung the bat well,” said senior outfielder Brad States, who had three hits and three RBIs in the second game. “I think we all felt very prepared this weekend.”

In the final game of the series, Rider lost another tight one, 7-5. The Broncs scored three runs in the sixth inning to tie the game after an RBI single by junior designated hitter David Hayes.

After ETSU made it 7-3, Rider tried to come back again in the eighth with RBI singles by David Hayes and Olson, but it wasn’t enough.

ETSU senior pitcher Caleb Glafenheim pitched solid in the rubber game going seven and two-third inning with six strikeouts and a walk. Junior first baseman Anthony Russell collected four hits with a home run, double and two RBIs.

Overall, States said the team was effective in its first series of the year and morale is high in the clubhouse.

“We feel good about the series,” he said. “This past weekend, everyone contributed and I think we performed pretty well.”

Jamie Hayes, who earned MAAC Player of the Week honors, had a tremendous series, going nine for 14 with six RBIs. Hayes says he felt comfortable in the box and had an aggressive approach at the plate.

“I felt relaxed at the plate and I saw the ball well,” he said. “I was selective by not swinging at many balls but aggressive at the same time by swinging at the first good pitch.”

Rider begins a weekend series at VMI (5-3 overall) today, and will have its first home game on Wednesday, March 7, against Delaware.

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