Rider claims MAAC title and chance at NCAAs
After classes ended, the men of the Rider baseball team packed their bags and headed out to California.
The team won a conference title for the first time in 12 years and for the first time as part of the MAAC. The Broncs finished the tournament with a doubleheader against Siena in which they only had to win one game and Siena had to win both.
Rider lost the first game after blowing an early lead.
“We weren’t playing real well at the end of the year,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “We kind of went in a little loose. We went in with a relaxed attitude.”
During the second game of the day, the team was behind in the beginning but eventually secured the lead with winning pitcher Derek Caldwell.
“When we ended up losing that game, that’s when the pressure set in,” said Caldwell, an incoming senior. “But after I threw that first pitch, the pressure was released.”
With the win, the team achieved a goal that it had set in the previous season, according to Caldwell.
“We set our goals high last season, knowing that with hard work and the talent that we have, we had a really good chance of reaching those goals,” he said.
As conference champions, the team traveled to California for the NCAA Regionals where it faced the fifth-ranked team in the country, Cal State Fullerton, in front of the cameras of ESPNU.
“I don’t know if we matched up with them as we would with teams on the East Coast,” Davis said.
After only seven innings, the minimum amount for a game, the Broncs lost the first game of the NCAA Regionals 11-0. Caldwell had the opportunity to pitch the final three and one-third innings, allowing only one run.
“As far as I could tell we weren’t intimidated by the bigger, more talented teams and we competed,” said incoming senior Jamie Hayes. “It didn’t turn out exactly how we liked, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and getting that experience is important for future success.”
The team finished its season with an 8-2 loss against University of Virginia, a team ranked within the top 25.
“We were up against some pretty good teams,” Davis said. “I thought we represented ourselves pretty well.”
Both players and the coach agreed the Regionals were a good experience and that they can all set high goals for the upcoming season.
“For the next year, it’s not going to be easy and nothing is going to be handed to us,” Hayes said. “Everyone is a year older and needs to continue to work hard and get better if we want to get back to where we were, and we are capable of doing that.”
Caldwell also agrees that with hard work and the same mindset as last season the team can reach higher goals.
A lot of the pressure is off of the team to win its first MAAC championship since it finally achieved that goal, said Davis. Along with the win, the team will be looked at differently, he said.
“We have some confidence that we can do it,” he said. “If the players prepare how they’re suppose to prepare, then we should certainly be able to do it again.”