By Rocco Schirripa
The Rider baseball team started off its season in Maryland on Feb. 21 with a doubleheader against Maryland Eastern Shore, and the team certainly did not disappoint, despite Mother Nature.
The Broncs swept the doubleheader, taking no time jumping out of the gate, winning the games 17-2 and 11-7.
Senior Jamie Hayes had five hits with as many RBIs in the doubleheader, along with fellow senior Sean Olson, who had three hits and five RBIs of his own. Junior Matt McCollum also had five RBIs on the day.
“Anytime you score 17 runs, you know you’re going to win that game,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “I think it was a good start; it was our first time out so it’s always a good way to go out. We hit the ball well, we had good offense and we pitched well.”
In the first game, senior Jimmer Kennedy pitched a gem, going six innings, striking out four and allowing only one run to cross the plate. After that, it was nothing but smooth sailing for Kennedy and the rest of the Broncs as the Rider offense scored 10 runs in the second inning, giving Kennedy plenty of cushion to pitch with.
“He was a little rusty like everyone else would be, but he was able to get us deeper into the game,” Davis said. “We were able to get his pitch count up and hopefully that will help him for next time to make him more prepared. He did what we asked him to do and that’s all we can ask for.”
The second game was a seven-inning match that was cut due to darkness. Rider scored four runs on four hits in the second inning, capped off by a two-run double by McCollum. At one point in the game, Rider expanded its lead to seven runs.
Junior Kris Brown started game two while junior Ryan Miller got the win coming out of the bullpen.
The third game of the series for the Broncs was rained out, so Rider swept out of Maryland with a little help from Mother Nature.
“Overall the team played well,” Davis said. “We’re not competing at the level we want to be at yet, but that will come with time. Starting with two wins is always a positive thing, so we’re off to the right start.”
The Broncs then went out against East Tennessee State, trying not to let the rain get the better of them, but to no avail. The rain cancelled four out of the five games. The one they did play was lost in a ninth-inning thriller, 8-7.
However, unlike against Maryland, it was the long ball that boosted the Broncs ahead in the beginning. Sophomore A.J. Albee hit a three-run home run with Olson and junior Nick Wojnowski — who started in left field for the first time (normally being the right fielder) — which put the Broncs ahead 6-5.
“Of course we didn’t play as well as we would have liked,” Davis said. “You score seven runs and you think that will win you the game, but we couldn’t close the door and we couldn’t come through.”
The Broncs head back out this weekend hoping the weather allows them to take on the Virginia Military Institute.
“It’s just the luck of the draw, and you can’t control Mother Nature,” Davis said. “We just need to stay focused and hope for the best. Now we move on to play three more games and get our guys out there again.”
Additional reporting by Kristie Kahl.