By Michael Mack
The Rider baseball team improved its record to 9-10 after taking two out of three against MAAC rival Iona and winning a non-conference game against Seton Hall, 8-2.
The first of the three-game set against Iona was a thriller as the Broncs won 10-8, and then took game three 9-7, but lost the middle contest by a score of 5-2.
Iona struck first, scoring a run in the second inning. But the Broncs answered right back, putting up four in the bottom half of the same inning, the first of which came on a solo home run by sophomore third baseman Mason Heyne.
Rider tacked on another run in the third to go up 5-1. The Gaels turned the tide after that, putting up seven runs in the next two innings while the Broncs scratched out just one, giving Iona an 8-6 lead. Rider chipped away in the eighth to make it 8-7 and held the score there heading into the bottom of the ninth.
After a hit and a walk by the Broncs’ first two batters, the stage was set. Heyne blasted his second home run of the game, this time a game winner.
“[That win was] very important, especially the way we did it,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “Comeback wins are always exciting.”
The Broncs did not fare as well in game two of the series, which was also the first of a doubleheader.
Rider held a 2-1 lead after three innings, but Iona sophomore pitcher Brian Callahan shut down the Rider offense after that, as the Gaels went on to victory. Callahan allowed only one earned run on just two hits in seven innings.
“He did what his team needed him to do,” Davis said.
Senior left fielder Maurice Williams had the only RBI for the Broncs.
The third game of the series and second of the double header was a better one for Rider.
The Broncs scored three in the first three innings on two RBIs from sophomore shortstop John Ralston and one from junior catcher Eric Woodrow. Rider sophomore pitcher Patrick Devlin mirrored the earlier performance of Callahan, going six and two-thirds innings, allowing just two earned runs. Devlin left the game with a 7-3 lead.
After that, the pitching and defense got a little shaky. Three walks and an error allowed the Gaels to cut the lead to 7-4 in the eighth inning. However, the Broncs responded with two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning.
The defensive struggles continued through to the ninth. Iona threatened by loading the bases with nobody out, after an error, a walk and a single. After a fielder’s choice and an RBI single, the Broncs’ lead was just 9-6 with one out and two runners on.
Another error allowed the Gaels to cut the lead to two, before senior relief pitcher Jamie Hayes took matters into his own hands. Hayes struck out the next batter and popped the next one up to third for the final out of the game.
Davis said that while the team may have felt pressured to win the third game of the series, the players knew what they had to do.
“The players understand the magnitude of these games and should know the importance of winning these games and ultimately the series, which we did,” Davis said
The Broncs continued to roll with their victory over Seton Hall.
Heyne hit his sixth home run of the season in the second inning and the Broncs never looked back. They went on to score five more unanswered runs before Seton Hall finally responded in the fifth inning. Senior pitcher Derek Caldwell threw a gem, going six and two-thirds, allowing only two runs and striking out four.
The Broncs have hit a hot streak now, winning six of their last eight.
“Winning can only help,” Davis said.
Rider has a doubleheader against Canisius tomorrow and faces off against the Golden Griffins again on Sunday, all three games are played at home.