By Shaun Chornobroff
For two straight days, the baseball team made the nearly two-hour trip from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, to Riverdale, New York. It was a successful trip as the Broncs won three of four games against the Manhattan Jaspers and improved to 9-3 on the season.
April 2 doubleheader
Victory seems to be automatic for the Broncs in 2021 as long as Pete Soporowski is on the mound. The left-hander stayed undefeated in his senior season, pitching a seven-inning complete-game in a 10-2 victory for Rider to open up the series.
One of the two runs Soporowski allowed was earned, giving him a jaw-droppingly dominant 0.82 ERA, which is good for seventh in the nation and third in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) as of April 6.
“His first two innings he wasn’t as sharp … It took him a while to get adjusted on the mound,” Head Coach Barry Davis said. “Third, fourth inning he kind of got into a groove and started throwing the ball with some velocity and hitting the spots a little better.”
Junior infielder David Bermudez had a career game for the Broncs, going 4-for-5 from the plate and contributing four RBIs, and hit one of Rider’s two home runs in the game.
Bermudez was one of the catalysts of an offensive outburst in the sixth inning that ballooned Rider’s lead from 4-1, to 10-1.
The Broncs followed up an amazing game one, with a disappointing 8-1 loss that Davis probably wished was a late April Fools’ Day prank.
When Davis was asked about what went wrong, he let out a slight chuckle and said, “you name it.”
Rider deployed four pitchers in the game and only one did not give up a run, with two of the four giving up three or more runs and another giving up a run before being removed in less than an inning.
Even in their worst performance of the 2021 season, the Broncs had chances to claw back into the game, but to their agony, they didn’t take advantage.
“It just was a day, we just didn’t play well at all, we made a baserunning mistake down four runs, that cannot happen,” Davis said bluntly. “We had bases loaded three innings in a row and we didn’t get a run… as bad as we played, we still had opportunities to score runs.”
April 3 doubleheader
On their second day in New York, everything clicked for the Broncs with them taking both contests.
The Broncs opened up their Saturday with a resounding 6-1 victory, led with a strong start by junior pitcher Frank Doelling.
The junior was his usual, dominant self, pitching seven strong innings and striking out six batters, rebounding nicely from a poor start the week before, only allowing one run and striking out six batters in seven innings of work.
“Every pitcher is going to have outings that they don’t have their best stuff and struggle, it’s a part of pitching,” Doelling explained. “I just needed to learn from it and have a short memory and trust myself to bounce back for the team and for myself and I felt like I did that.”
Rider was held scoreless through three innings, but sophomore infielder Justin Winsett sparked a four-run fourth inning with a two-run single before the Broncs scored two more runs in the next inning.
After two innings of their final game of the series, the Broncs found themselves trailing 3-1, but Rider found its groove, going on an offensive outburst and boarding a bus back to Lawrenceville with a 9-3 victory.
Rider scored three runs in the third inning to gain the lead before a home run from sophomore first baseman Luke Lesch knocked a two-run home run to give the Broncs a 6-3 lead.
Rider scored another run in the fourth inning to give itself a 7-3 lead before Sean McGeehan wrapped up an uber-productive weekend with a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
The graduate student center fielder, who is in his first season at Rider, thrashed the Jaspers all four games, hitting two home runs, five RBIs and crossing home plate four times himself in the series.
The lopsided scoreline comes not only from strong hitting, but a strong performance from the bullpen. Senior Sebastian Williamson led a trio of pitchers, who threw seven shutout innings of relief in the win.
“Sebastian’s performance was outstanding… Colin Eisner was able to enter and get the lefty pinch hitter out in a clutch situation in the seventh and Cal Stalzer… entering with bases loaded and two out in the eight to get a big strikeout,” Davis said proudly. “Zero runs for the better part of the game is a tremendous effort.”
Rider faces arguably its toughest challenge of the season on April 7 when it face the 11-1 Monmouth Hawks in a doubleheader on the road.
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