By Jordan Hall
On Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Rider softball team did its best to crash a party.
St. Joseph’s opened its brand-new softball facility by welcoming the Broncs for a doubleheader to help them break it in.
Both teams threw out their aces in game one, and it showed as Rider (6-15-1) fell in a 1-0 pitchers duel, but the Broncs bounced back to grab the second contest, 4-2.
“St. Joe’s (8-15) is a very good team that won the A-10 last year,” senior Rachael Matreale said. “[They] have a lot of returners, so playing two good games against them and getting a win out of it was a pretty good day.”
Rider travels back to Philadelphia today to take part in the Penn Spring Invitational, a four-team tournament at Pennsylvania this weekend.
In front of a packed house, Matreale pitched brilliantly in game one. With the Rider offense facing the Hawks’ top starter, senior Erin Gallagher, Matreale needed a gem-like performance and she delivered.
The 5’10” right-hander threw seven shutout innings, but in the eighth, Matreale gave up her lone blemish: a walk-off single to plate the only run of the contest.
“I felt like I pitched a good game, but wins are definitely the way I want to end games,” Matreale said. “I just want to win and I am trying to do everything I can possibly do to give our team the best chance at winning every game I pitch.”
The Hawks led off the eighth inning with a double, moved the runner to third base with a sac bunt, and after a walk, a single to center field made Matreale the hard-luck losing pitcher.
Matreale struck out nine batters and lowered her season earned run average to 2.52. In her last two starts, the hurler has surrendered only two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings, while punching out 16.
“I feel confident out there pitching against anyone,” Matreale said.
But on Wednesday, her standout performance wasn’t enough as Rider’s offense mustered only two hits.
“Rachael has been pitching great and it was tough not getting that win for her,” senior Lucy Higgins said. “Erin Gallagher is a great pitcher. She has a lot of speed and she hits her spots.”
In the latter matchup, the Broncs’ bats came alive. Rider got going early as junior Sam Pugh hit a sac fly to give Rider the first inning lead.
In the fifth, Rider snapped a 1-1 tie, in large part because of a pair of rookies. Freshman Gina McCool singled to right to bring home a run, and then freshman Allysen Breeden reached on an error and McCool scored because of the defensive mishap.
To play things safe, the Broncs scored an insurance run in the last frame to hold on for a split.
“In game two, we just hit the ball harder and were able to get the ball out of the infield,” Higgins said. “We’ve been working hard on getting hard-hit balls down on the ground during practice, so we were able to do that during the game.”
Rider provided the offense, and sophomore Krysti Maronski rendered the pitching. Maronski threw her best game of the season, capturing her first win of the year with a complete game, two earned run outing.
“Krysti pitched great and kept the team in the game and the hitters did their job,” Matreale said.
The standout freshman duo of McCool and Breeden combined for three hits and three RBIs in the victory to continue their strong start.
“Allysen has been our most consistent hitter all year,” Matreale said. “Gina is really starting to get in a groove and is seeing the ball and hitting well. They work hard and it is paying off.”
Rider squares off against Army (12-9) tonight at 6:15 p.m. for its first game of the Penn Spring Invitational. The Broncs are hoping the big road win leads to more success away from home.
“Our expectation for this weekend is to win each of our games,” Higgins said. “It’s always great to get a win on the road because it shows everyone that we can compete and bounce back in doubleheaders — just because we didn’t win the first game doesn’t mean we are just going to give up.”