By Steven Eggert
The Rider baseball team (5-13) returns home after spending the first five weeks of its season on the road. The Broncs will face their first MAAC opponent, Niagara, (7-11) in a three-game set with game one starting today at 3:30 p.m. followed by a doubleheader on Saturday.
Niagara is the first home opponent Rider faces this season.
The Broncs are currently going through a six-game losing streak.
Senior outfielder Brandon Cotten feels that the entire team is struggling and on the offensive side, players haven’t been patient at the plate.
“Honestly, we’re just basically struggling as a whole right now,” he said. “Our pitching, defense and hitting. We’re not seeing a lot of pitches, not being patient and our pitching is starting to come around.”
The problems the Broncs have faced recently have come from their offense not producing many runs. In its last five games, Rider has only managed to score seven runs total. Cotten knows things need to change offensively if the team wants to win.
“We need to step it up offensively,” Cotten said. “Seven runs in the last five games is not going to win us any ballgames.”
From a pitching perspective, junior pitcher Tyler Smith feels that their losses have come from not pounding the zone and making mistakes on the mound.
“What we need to do is to start attacking hitters better and get outs,” Smith said. “We’re walking too many guys, hitting too many guys and making bad pitches at bad times. It’s not that we’re doing bad, it’s that we’re not doing as good as we could possibly be doing.”
On Wednesday, the Broncs played a road game against in-state rival Rutgers (9-9) and lost by a score of 5-0.
Both teams were able to manage six hits each; however, two of Rutgers’ hits were home runs that generated four of its five runs.
Smith felt Rider gave the Scarlet Knights runs they did not deserve.
“Other teams are capitalizing on our mistakes when we haven’t been capitalizing on other teams’ mistakes,” Smith said. “What it was was that we had just as many hits, but we walked more guys and hit more guys, and we’re giving them bases they haven’t earned. That turns it into an inning where they put up four runs when they can really put up one.”
The Broncs were led offensively by Cotten who had two of Rider’s six hits, which were both singles. Cotten was frustrated at the loss because Rider wasn’t able to prove that the team was the best team against an in-state rival.
“It’s always nice to beat the teams in the state because it’s always nice to have the bragging rights,” Cotten said.
Rider looks forward to redeeming itself this weekend when it faces Niagara. Unlike the Broncs, the Purple Eagles have been playing well offensively, but their pitching has an ERA of 13.40 during their five-game losing streak. Cotten understands that the Broncs need to bring their best offensively because Niagara competes well against Rider.
“They are a very solid team offensively,” Cotten said. “They hit the ball and score a lot of runs, and we don’t, and that’s something we’re going to have to do this weekend — we’ll have to turn it on.”
Cotten feels that the Broncs need to put their 5-13 record behind them and focus on right now. It all starts with Niagara today.
“Now that we’re 5-13, we just want to leave it behind us,” Cotten said. “We don’t want to bring it up ever again, and basically we want to start over. Since it’s conference weekend, we’re going to be fired up.”
Rider hopes to turn its season around and start winning the important conference games coming up. Smith realizes it’s now or never, and this point in the season is extremely crucial to how the team finishes.
“We’re getting into the time of the season where it counts more than ever, and these next conference games are going to dictate the rest of our season,” he said. “Our mindset for these games is that we didn’t win as many games as we wanted to, but now we’re at games that matter. We need to put the pedal to the metal and go and get it done.”