By Michael Mack
The Rider softball team had a busy week, playing seven games in five days, with only one at home.
Saturday, the Broncs (9-25, 3-5 MAAC) traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to play MAAC rival Marist in a doubleheader. In the first game, the Broncs struggled offensively, scratching out just five hits and one run. Rider dropped the first game by a score of 3-1.
The bright side of the game for Rider was that junior leadoff batter Allyson Melia went three for four with an RBI. The rest of the offense, however, did not follow Melia’s lead. And the offense wasn’t much better in the second game.
The Broncs pushed across two runs on five hits in the nightcap. However, the pitching was good enough to turn that into a win. Freshman Rachael Matreale threw a gem, giving up just one run on three hits over seven innings. Sophomore Amanda Centeno drove in the winning run in the top of the seventh with a double, and Matreale took care of Marist in the bottom of the inning to get Rider the win.
Sunday the Broncs traveled to Loudonville, N.Y. to take on another MAAC rival, the Siena Saints.
In game one, the once struggling Bronc offense woke up to the tune of eight runs on 10 hits. Rider scored in each of the first six innings, taking an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Rider’s pitching, however, was not quite as stellar.
The Saints climbed back into it with a four-run sixth inning, cutting the lead to just one. Senior Lauren Brunner took over and stopped the bleeding. After she gave up the home run that cut the lead to one, she struck out the next two batters, ending the big Siena inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, she allowed a hit and a walk to make the game interesting before striking out two and popping up to third to end the game. Rider won, 8-7.
In game two, the offense continued to produce. The Broncs put up four runs in the first six innings and trailed 5-4 going into the seventh. With the game on the line, Melia led off the inning with a single. After a sacrifice bunt and a fly out, the Broncs were left with a runner in scoring position with two outs and a serious need for some late game heroics.
Enter sophomore Brittany Eckett, who roped a two-out RBI double to tie the game.
“I was thinking, ‘I need to come through for my team and I need to make sure I get my job done,’” Eckett said. “This girl [had] been throwing the ball outside a lot so I crowded the plate and hit to right field.”
The Broncs would hold on in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras. The offense was stifled in the top of the eighth, going down without a single baserunner. The Saints never gave the Rider offense another chance, as they scored on a wild pitch to take the game by a score of 6-5.
“It was frustrating to lose the game overall but we fought back really hard in the last couple of innings,” Eckett said. “But all in all we did them a great fight and ended up splitting the series.”
Next up for the Broncs was state rival Rutgers. Rider came home Wednesday to take on the Scarlet Knights and the offense continued to produce. Unfortunately, the pitching wasn’t great, as the Broncs spotted Rutgers a four-run lead after two innings.
Home runs by Eckett and junior Candice Harris tied the score for the Broncs by the end of the third inning, but Rutgers answered right back with three more runs in the fourth and never looked back.
Rider added a run in the fifth but Rutgers tacked on two in the sixth and three more in the seventh giving them a 12-5 lead. The Broncs added a run in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t get more than that, and they dropped the game by a final score of 12-6.
Harris finished the game two for four with three runs and three RBIs.
The final stop in the Broncs’ busy week was Newark, Del., where Rider took on the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware in a doubleheader. The offense finished up the week even worse than the way it started. The Broncs left all seven base runners on, not scoring a single run in game one.
Freshman pitcher Kelsey Krisch received no help from the offense, but still threw a brilliant game, giving up just one earned run on four hits over six innings. She also collected four strikeouts along the way. Rider dropped the first game by a final of 2-0.
Game two was no different. The Broncs were shut out again, picking up just six hits in the seven innings. Rider batters were struck out eight times in the game, giving them more strikeouts than hits.
The pitching, however, was brilliant yet again. Matreale threw her second great game in five days, going six innings and allowing just two runs on eight hits while striking out six. The Broncs dropped game two by the familiar score of 2-0.
Rider won just two of the seven games it played this week, as it continued to look for a day when its offense and pitching will both execute.
Next up for the Broncs is a doubleheader with Monmouth at home on Saturday, April 11. Game one starts at noon.