By Cynthia Reyes
The Rider baseball team gave its best shot in a three-game series at home versus Niagara this past Saturday and Sunday, coming out with one win and two losses.
“I’m disappointed,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “We had an opportunity to win two on Saturday, but we failed to make plays in every area of the game. And game three on Sunday, we simply were outplayed.”
Mike Thomas, a junior and one of the team captains, pitched the first seven innings of game one, throwing an amazing nine strikeouts with just two walks. Freshman Tyler Smith stepped in to shut the door on Niagara in the eighth and ninth innings, helping the Broncs defeat Niagara 12-3.
“I think I did OK,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have my best stuff but I just battled it out and let my defense pick me up. [The team] played great behind me.”
Junior John Ralston hit a two-run single in the fourth inning, allowing the Broncs to take a 5-3 lead. Other big hitters of the game were juniors Steve Galella (another team captain) and Karl Johnston who, along with junior A.J. Albee and freshman Adam Wayman, had a total of 18 hits between them throughout the series.
Game two had a shaky start with Niagara pulling into a 3-2 lead after two unearned runs in the fourth inning. Although the Broncs fought back to tie the score in the seventh inning, thanks to an RBI by junior Mason Heyne, it wasn’t enough, and Niagara won 4-3.
Sophomore Brandon Cotten played a tough defense, making a spectacular back-to-home plate diving catch in centerfield that robbed Niagara of three runs in the top of the eighth. Unfortunately, a wild pitch in the same inning gave Niagara the lead it was looking for, causing it to up its defense and prevent the Broncs from getting any more runs.
“We have to play all nine innings as a whole,” Cotten said. “We can’t get down on ourselves or each other. We can’t have pitchers blaming position players and position players blaming pitchers for whatever reason. If someone makes a mistake, tell them to keep their head high.”
One highlight of the second game that offset the team’s loss was Albee’s 100th career hit, making him the 72nd baseball player at Rider to do so. He joins the ranks of teammates Heyne, Galella, Ralston and Matt McCoolum.
“It felt pretty good,” recalled Albee. “One-hundred hits is a nice little accomplishment to have.”
The third and final game of the series looked to be a shutout against Rider until Ralston scored on a pair of errors and put Rider on the board, trailing 5-1. Wayman added to the Broncs’ score by hitting his first-ever home run in the seventh inning. Heyne once again contributed a run when he hit a triple and scored on a groundout in the ninth making the score 6-3, which ended up being the final score.
Three Rider freshmen — Joe Calogero, Chris LeRoy and Sean Kuberiet — kept Niagara from pulling ahead further by pitching the final three scoreless innings.
“We played well enough to win, but we kind of let ourselves down and we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities,” Smith said. “We could’ve come out with a sweep.”
Despite the MAAC losses, the team continues to be optimistic about the rest of the season.
“We played solid defense,” Thomas said. “We are better than our record shows, and the wins will take care of themselves as long as we keep working.”
The Broncs’ next game is on Saturday, April 3, at noon versus the Fairfield Stags on the road.
By Cynthia Reyes