By Christopher Brooks
When it rains it pours, and oh did it pour this weekend, putting a majority of the Northeast in a soggy state. United States underwater with flooding. It would have been a nice day to stay inside, but some teams, such as track and field, baseball and softball are all outdoors.
While many chose to stay inside, the Rider baseball team wanted nothing more than to play, something it has had trouble doing this season. Of its 61 scheduled regular season contests, the Broncs have already had 11 games canceled, nearly 20% of the regular season.
Head Coach Barry Davis and his squad were on a bus early on March 31 to make up game two of a doubleheader against conference opponent Quinnipiac in New Britain, Conn. Though the sun was shining, the 170-mile trek was derailed by wet field conditions at Central Connecticut State, where the game was to be played.
“Right from the start of the season, we haven’t been able to get on the field,” Davis said. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm and you just got to keep trying to stay as sharp as you can.”
Originally scheduled for March 29, the Quinnipiac game now joins the growing list of canceled games, but games are not the only thing the rain has hampered. According to Davis, the team has had only a handful of outdoor practices because of rain, snow and frigid temperatures.
“That’s been one of the issues,” he said. “We’ve only practiced maybe four times on the field all year.”
Traveling south, the Broncs have been able to play 22 games, acquiring a 6-16 record.
The softball team isn’t having any better luck.
Of its 63 scheduled regular season games, the team has so far completed 17 games, with 15 being canceled. Between Feb. 28 and March 9, softball had 13 consecutive games canceled because of snow and cold temperatures. That’s nearly half of their season’s schedule.
On March 30, the rain continued, postponing a doubleheader that would have opened conference play against St. Peter’s.
Softball Head Coach Tricia Carroll is in nearly the same boat as Davis, having practiced outdoors only seven times this season.
“It’s hard to do,” she said. “The weather has affected everybody in the Northeast.”
Baseball and softball’s opponents from the South have had no need to travel to Rider, and the opposition is put at an advantage. The Broncs have dealt with different areas and weather because of starting the season on the road. Meanwhile, the home teams are used to playing in their own area’s weather.
Although both coaches admit that outdoor practice is more beneficial to their clubs, they are happy to have the newly built indoor practice facility on Rider’s campus. The facility, which is in its first season of use, came just at the right time.
The 7,000-square-foot facility features four batting cages, practice stations for a variety of drills, and a turf area for fielding and throwing. Completion of the facility has greatly increased the practice time of both baseball and softball during inclement weather, but it only helps so much.
“We are grateful to have the facility, but the game is played outside on dirt and grass,” Carroll said. “Pitchers are throwing off of carpet or portable mounds; it’s a different game. It limits everything. Doing base-running drills is nearly impossible.”
The softball team is currently on a 13-game losing streak. Carroll believes the lack of outdoor practice and competition has hurt the performance of her players, especially an inexperienced pitching staff that is posting a team ERA of 5.88, giving up 163 hits and 113 runs in only 119 innings pitched.
“Our pitching staff, every single one of them, is in their first year of eligibility,” Carroll said. “They are young and they need the games, innings and the real environment. The weather has hurt them as much as anybody.”
In addition to the teams playing on the diamond, other spring athletic teams have also battled with the weather.
On March 23 at the La Salle Invitational, the opening event of the golf spring season was canceled because of cold temperatures. On March 30, the opening 18 holes of the Whiting-Turner Towson Invitational were rained out.
The Broncs teed off on March 31 and finished 18th out of 22 teams.
Also rained out on March 29-30 were the men’s and women’s tennis matches against Saint Francis and Towson.
Junior Alison Noll feels the weather has also negatively affected her performance.
“As a player, you have to be prepared to play in all different types of weather conditions,” she said. “Unfortunately, with the weather and a mix of some other factors, I just wasn’t able to play how I would’ve liked to.”