By Tom Regan
Despite finishing the 2014 season in 10th place in the MAAC with a 7-15 record, the baseball team saw its senior third baseman, Nick Richter, who was named the team’s 2014 MVP, tied for first in the NCAA in stolen bases and first in stolen bases per game.
Richter became the sixth Rider athlete to lead the NCAA in a statistical category and first Rider baseball player since Ken Kremer led the nation in batting average in 1988. However, the stolen base champion believes Kremer’s accomplishment of finishing first in the country with a batting average of .471 is a far superior triumph.
“Obviously, Ken Kremer’s record is more impressive with winning the batting title, but it’s fun to compete against the other players in the country,” Richter said.
Although Richter admits leading the nation in stolen bases is an achievement, he finds it hard to be excited when the team struggled to win many games in his record-setting campaign.
“I am fairly proud of my accomplishment; however, I wish we could have accomplished more as a team,” Richter said. “We were better talent-wise than what we showed last year and I think we all feel disappointed in ourselves that we let that happen.”
In addition to being the stolen base champion, Richter broke Rider’s single-season stolen base record of 40, set by Mike Lisetski, ’70, in 1967.
While stealing 41 bases in only 49 games is nearly a stolen base per game and a better ratio than his co-leader, Furman’s Hunter Burton, who needed 59 games to accomplish this feat, Richter believes it is more because of his base-stealing prowess rather than sheer speed.
“I never was a good base-stealer until my sophomore year of college,” Richter said. “I was never that fast. I just tried to get good reads off the pitcher. I started to gain speed and confidence which led to my success.”
Richter assures that stealing a base for the sake of racking up statistics is the last thing on his mind when he reaches base, suggesting it is much more of a team-first approach.
“When I get on base, I don’t automatically think of stealing,” Richter said. “It’s more of getting in the best position to score runs. If that’s bunting or stealing or running on a passed ball, I’m just trying to make it to the next base safely.”
Senior first baseman Justin Thomas, who led the team in RBIs, spoke highly of Richter’s ability to get on base and into scoring position, making his job easier.
“Nick was a great teammate both on and off the field and was ready to go from the start, letting his play speak for itself,” Thomas said. “He didn’t affect me too much at the plate because he was usually in scoring position when I came up and it was my job to score him.”
Richter played two seasons at McHenry County College in Illinois, including a sophomore season that saw him bat .385 and swipe 55 bases, to finish second in the NCAA Division II. However, in his first season at the Division I level, Richter credits Rider’s coaching staff for his success.
“The coaches here are very helpful and supportive,” Richter said. “[Head] Coach [Barry] Davis, Steward, Proietti and Woodrow gave me the confidence and opportunities to accomplish the record. Coach Davis let me know that I was allowed to steal if it was a good situation.”
Davis expressed the importance of Richter’s strong season, but believes Richter still has room to grow.
“I was very happy for Nick as he had a tremendous year overall, leading the team in runs scored,” Davis said. “But, he needs to improve his defense and continue to get physically stronger.”
Even with the record-setting season, Richter refuses to label stealing as his favorite part of the game, explaining that he loves the game too much to single out one aspect as the best.
“I wouldn’t say stealing is my favorite part of baseball, I don’t think I have a favorite part,” Richter said.
After a year with the Broncs, Richter comprehends his place on the roster and what Rider is trying to accomplish with its baseball program. Going into the 2014-2015 season, Richter knows he must forget his strong campaign and focus on this year.
“One thing I learned was my role on the team; I didn’t know what to expect or how I was expected to play when I got here,” Richter said. “Now that I settled in, I feel more comfortable in our system and what’s expected out of me, which will allow me to teach the younger guys.”