By David Pavlak
Domination gave way to distress as the softball team faced off against the Marist Red Foxes and the Iona Gaels this past weekend. Both games were huge for the emergence of a true contender in the MAAC division.
Rider (10-20-1 overall, 4-2 MAAC) faced off against the Red Foxes at home, sweeping them in both games 8-0 and 8-4.
The highlight of the weekend for the Broncs came against Marist as sophomore Rachael Matreale pitched a no-hitter in game one. The no-hitter is the first in Rider softball history since 2004.
“My pitches were working well and I was getting a lot of groundballs,” Matreale said. “My pitches were moving and I was really working on staying ahead of the batters. The defense played awesome and I would not have had a no-hitter if they did not play so well.”
On top of Matreale’s strong pitching game, junior Amanda Centeno drove in the runs for the Broncs. Centeno recorded a sac-fly RBI and a three-run homerun, breaking open the score completely for Rider.
“I was just looking to get a base hit in a hole, to possibly score a run and start a rally to get the team fired up and confident,” Centeno said. “In the games during the week, there was no comfortable lead, the games could go either way, so putting three more runs on the board fired us up to keep playing hard.”
The Broncs would end the first game with a win and start right back where they left off moments later in the second game. Junior Brittany Eckett hit a three-run homerun in the bottom of the first to put the Broncs on the board immediately, and there would be no looking back. Centeno then came back to the plate and drove in three more runs, putting the game out of reach for the Red Foxes.
Following the compelling wins against Marist, Rider faced off against powerhouse Iona Gaels, losing both games 1-0 and 11-1.
In a MAAC doubleheader, the Broncs would go down in the first inning after a long and grueling battle. In the top of the second, the Gaels would hit a single into play, scoring the only run of this game. The defeat did not come because of poor preparation on the Broncs’ part.
“We prepare the same for every game,” said Eckett. “We know that every game is going to be a challenge and we should not take any team lightly. Iona was a very good team, but at the same time no team in our conference should be taken lightly.”
Rider fared worse in the nightcap. Tied at one in the fourth, Iona scattered nine hits, scoring 10 runs and putting the game out of reach for the Broncs. Now is the time when the Broncs need to settle down in order to fulfill the goal they set in the beginning of the year — a MAAC championship.
“We really wanted to win these games just like any other game, but now we need to work even harder at making sure we win our upcoming conference games in a few weeks against Canisius and Niagara, who are both very good teams as well,” said Matreale.
“What needs to happen is that we all have to stay focused and not allow these two losses to affect us,” said Eckett. We have to bounce back and play our game and we will do just fine in reaching our goal.”