Rider has found itself in a minor slump before the true test of conference play begins.
The softball team is going into the weekend on a five- game losing streak after falling to Rutgers and the University of Delaware in non-conference matches earlier this week.
“As of right now our record doesn’t look too good, but there have been some very well- played ball games even though we lost,” junior pitcher Lauren Brunner said. “Soon things will start to go our way.”
The Broncs were swept in their home opening doubleheader against Delaware (18-14) on Wednesday.
In the first game, Rider (7-17) trailed by one before sophomore Candice Harris started the third inning with a double. After a sacrifice bunt, senior Tiffany Day-Neutill bunted for a hit to bring Harris in for a run. Three hits and a Rider error in the fourth helped Delaware take the lead. The Broncs came back to tie the game in the fifth on a bases loaded fielder’s choice by sophomore Derrin Minunni, scoring sophomore Megan Kozlowski.
The Blue Hens put one more on the board on a two-out RBI double in the sixth inning to clinch a 3-2 win over Rider.
Senior Jessica Holland recorded the loss for Rider, throwing a complete game while recording five strikeouts.
“The first game was a great game,” Head Coach Tricia Carroll said to Rider Sports Information. “Delaware is a very good hitting team. We’ve been hanging tough with good teams and we weren’t lacking for opportunities to score in the first game. We just didn’t get that one big hit to break an inning open.”
In the second game, Delaware started off early with three unearned runs in the first inning. After the Broncs trailed 4-0, Rider joined the scoring game in the third inning with a single from Day-Neutill and a Delaware error, scoring Harris.
Delaware came back to add three runs in the fifth with two more in the sixth to finish the day with a 9-2 Blue Hen win.
“We are competing,” said Day-Neutill. “For the most part games have been close even when we have lost and in the bad losses we generally beat ourselves.”
Day-Neutill had four hits on the day, putting her at 184 career hits, tied for seventh all-time at Rider. Harris and Kozlowski made out with two hits each and scored twice in the doubleheader. Minunni added two hits in the first loss.
Rider had no problem reaching the bases all day, but it ended the doubleheader leaving 11 on the base in the opener and 19 on base for the day.
The Broncs also fell to Rutgers 10-2 in five innings during a non-conference game on Tuesday.
“There were too many mental mistakes and errors,” Brunner said. “You can’t give a good team like Rutgers any extra bases because they hit well and push runs across.”
The game remained scoreless until Rider jumped to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single from Minunni with the bases loaded, followed by a hit by pitch with freshman Amanda Centeno at the plate.
Rutgers answered with four runs in the bottom of the third inning while adding five more in the fourth inning to put the game out of Rider’s reach.
Rider came out with five errors, and eight of 10 Scarlet Knight runs were unearned.
“We know that we need to play solid defense,” Day-Neutill said. “Errors are going to happen. We need to stop one from turning into more.”
Brunner took the loss, lasting two innings while allowing four runs, none earned.
“Our pitchers did a really nice job for us and we did not support them by playing good defense,” Day-Neutill said. “You can’t give a team like Rutgers extra outs and we did and they took advantage of it.”
With 16 of its next 22 games being against MAAC opponents, Rider looks to learn from its previous 24 non-conference games in order to find itself among the top four in the conference to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“We play a tough schedule which is preparing us for conference,” Brunner said. “When we play our non-conference games we learn what we need to work on and accomplish. I think we will be ready for conference games this weekend against Siena and St. Peters.”
Rider will open its conference schedule against Siena at home tomorrow at noon.