By Rebecca Taylor Bludgus
Rider softball took one of two games on March 22 in a breezy doubleheader in Newark, Delaware, winning the second game 4-2.
Junior pitcher Jessie Niegocki threw her third complete game and earned her third win of the season.
Although sophomore pitcher Kathryn Schmierer was able to put up great numbers in the circle, the Broncs were shutout 2-0.
Wild wild pitches
Although Delaware scored first, the Broncs were able to take advantage of three walks and two wild pitches to score three runs in the second inning.
Junior outfielder Layena Wright started the inning off with a line-drive single to right field, and graduate student infielder Gianna Epps and Niegocki walked to load the bases.
A wild pitch allowed Wright to score and tie the game up at 1-1 while Epps and Niegocki moved up to third and second base, and an RBI sacrifice grounder from freshman outfielder Maddie Luedtke brought Epps home and the Broncs’ score up to 2-1. Another wild pitch allowed Niegocki to extend that lead to 3-1.
In the top of the fifth, freshman pitcher Jadeyn Merrill started the inning off with a single up the middle. Wright was at the plate with two outs and got the RBI double to right center field to send Merrill home for Rider’s last run of the day, bringing the score to 4-1. The Blue Hens were able to tack on a few hits, but the defense was right there to make sure no real damage was done.
In the bottom of the seventh, Delaware did their best to tie it up, but only one run came in.
With no outs and runners at first and second, a bunt was played right in front of the plate. Sophomore catcher Kristyn Gardner had a throwing error to first, allowing Wright at right field to get on the ball. With the throw to the plate, Gardner was able to get the tag on the runner to prevent further damage, and Gardner was then able to get the ball to Luedtke, who was covering second, to keep the runner at first.
“Our team is a very young team … we’re growing and working through things every single game,” said Schmierer about the trend of unearned runs coming in.
Niegocki finished with nine hits, seven strikeouts, two hit-by-pitches, two runs, one earned run and one walk.
After the first run came in the first inning, Niegocki retired seven straight.
Wright had a big game, breaking her seven-game hitless streak to go 3-3 with an RBI, a run and a major assist in the seventh inning.
Up and out
Game two was a pitching duel, with both starters facing just 24 batters in the game, only three batters over the minimum of 21.
On both sides, they were able to make a lot of contact under the ball, making 21 of the 39 total outs fly-outs. Although the Broncs were making contact, it wasn’t enough to bring runners home, leading to a scoreless game until the bottom of the fourth inning.
With runners at the corners, the runner at first went for the stolen base attempt. A fielding error from Epps allowed the runner at third to come in for an unearned run.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the runner got on with a double to right center, and an RBI single to right field sent her home to advance the lead 2-0.
Rider had one last hope in the top of the seventh when Olivia Burroughs got on base from a fielding error with two out, but she was left stranded.
With a total of 48 batters faced from both sides, the game clocked in at an hour and seventeen minutes.
Schmierer went six innings with five hits, one earned run, one walk, and a strikeout.
“I noticed that they struggled a lot with off-speed,” said Schmierer. “I think one thing I do have going for me that most teams consistently struggle with is off-speed, so using that to keep them off balance helped a lot.”
At 6-14, the Broncs’ next doubleheader will be at home on March 29 against Princeton at 3 p.m. with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play on the horizon.
“I have good expectations for our team just because I know we’ve been making a lot of adjustments, hitting and fielding,” said Schmierer. “I have a feeling that we’re going to be able to put everything together.”