By Carolo Pascale and Dylan Manfre
After a long-awaited return to the field, Head Coach Davon Ortega and Rider University women’s softball started the season 3-1 for the first time in Ortega’s tenure, after putting up 30 runs throughout back-to-back doubleheaders vs Quinnipiac University on March 20 and March 21.
In game one of the season, sophomore outfielder Alyssa Ansara got the Broncs going in the bottom of the first, executing a great bunt, and later scored thanks to a wild pitch, giving the Broncs a 1-0 lead.
Taking the momentum into the second, freshman second baseman Kennedy Jarrard smacked a double deep into left field in her first-career at-bat for her first hit of her young college softball career.
“Not many people go out there and get a hit their first at-bat their freshman year,” said Ortega about Jarrard’s first hit. “She brings a different level of excitement and energy, and everybody’s surrounding her because she’s just a good person and a really great teammate.”
Jarrard reflected on getting her first hit as a Bronc, during her very first at-bat, in her very first college game.
“It was really exciting because I haven’t played a game since last March and my first at-bat and my first college game, getting a double was pretty nice,” Jarrard said. “It was just a great feeling and having my teammates in the dugout hype me up, that was the best feeling in the world.”
The game was largely stagnant until the top of the fifth, when Quinnipiac scored six runs, putting the Broncs down 6-2.
Senior pitcher Debra Jones pitched a complete game regardless of that half-inning, allowing seven runs, three earned and striking out five batters.
Rider scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to bring the score to 6-4, but the Bobcats escaped with a 7-5 victory.
Game two of the season didn’t start as good as the first one had for the Broncs.
Quinnipiac scored two runs in the bottom of the first, after two bases-loaded walks by junior pitcher Brooklyn Trujillo-Quintana, giving Quinnipiac a 2-0 lead.
Trujillo-Quintana also pitched a complete game for Rider, allowing five runs, four of which earned.
Rider got one back in the bottom of the first off of a single from sophomore catcher Elena Gonzalez, making the score 2-1.
With the score of 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Rider loaded the bases as sophomore catcher Chaela Crowder came into the game to pinch-hit for Ansara. Crowder hit a double deep into the outfield, giving the Broncs a 4-3 lead.
“That was so big. And it was so big for her. And that felt so good. We kept our energy up when we needed it to be up, which is pretty big for us,” Ansara said of the momentum swinging double.
Rider extended their lead to 5-3, but Quinnipiac scored two runs tying the game at 5 in the top of the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Rider pulled ahead when graduate student outfielder Marigliano scored on a wild pitch to make the score 6-5.
Rider’s defense stayed strong and the Broncs hung on to win 8-5.
Ortega was pleased about both of Ansara’s and Gonzalez’s performances on Saturday.
“They went out and they were aggressive. Alyssa [Ansara] and her speed is what makes her really successful and she can put the ball anywhere in play,” Ortega said. “As far as Elena [Gonzalez] is concerned, we knew that she could be that kind of hitter. She was focused, and she came ready to play today.”
Gonzalez was named MAAC Player of the Week, went 8/13 hitting, had seven RBIs, and scored four runs of her own throughout the entire weekend.
Sophomore hurler Jackie Cal had only made three career appearances before COVID-19 shut down her freshman season. In her return to the circle, the pitcher demonstrated a solid four innings tossing three blank frames in Rider’s 8-7 win over Quinnipiac in the top half of March 21’s doubleheader.
She got through the second and third inning only facing three batters. The third inning proved to be her best of the day only tossing 11 pitches and sent the Bobcats down in the order.
In her final two innings, she gave up three runs, two of which came off a booming home run from Kayla Thomas.
The bottom of the fifth is when Rider flexed its offense scoring four runs in the inning. Infielder Elena Gonzalez, who finished the day 2-for-3 with a trio of RBIs, was responsible for one of those runs.
“I felt comfortable with the pitches today,” Gonzalez said through a hoarse voice from her loud cheering. “I just felt great about being able to put the ball in play for my team.”
Gonzalez added that she was extremely excited to return to the field after the pandemic canceled her freshman season.
Extra momentum called for extra innings after a tense seventh frame that featured Rider and Quinnipiac tied at 7.
The final frame proved just as exciting for the Broncs who ended the doubleheader with a 9-8 win in eight innings.
Junior catcher Grace Stansfield came to the plate having never hit a walk-off in her Rider career. That changed March 21 with a single to left field.
The bases were loaded and it was the perfect stage for a new milestone.
“We faced this pitcher four games by the end of today so we all kind of knew what she was coming at us with,” Stansfield said. “I think this was a good way to end our first opening weekend because now we can take that energy from the end of that game into the rest of our practice this week and into next week and hope that we can continue playing like we were playing today.”
Stansfield finished the March 21 doubleheader 3-for-9 at the plate with two runs and an RBI.
The Broncs will play four games against the Niagara Purple Eagles in another set of doubleheaders on March 27 and 28.