Rider’s hot start ends at the hands of Lafayette
By Luke Lombardi
No matter what sport an athlete plays, they want the team to start as hot as possible. The Rider baseball team has done that as it took two out of three games from Miami of Ohio from Feb. 26-27 and lost 11-2 to Lafayette on March 2.
While the weekend finished strong, it started with the worst-case scenario for the Broncs. The first game started close as Miami of Ohio held a 1-0 lead going into the fourth. However, Rider imploded during the fourth inning, giving up six runs. Because the game went seven innings since it was the first of a doubleheader, the Broncs had almost no hope. Add two more runs in the sixth and the Broncs fell 9-0.
Even though the offense struggled, Head Coach Barry Davis wasn’t concerned.
He said “Well, you’re going to have games like that. Their pitcher threw the ball pretty good and had good stuff. It was 1-0 in the fourth. We botch a bunt and kind of opened the door to a big inning. We could’ve easily stopped them but we didn’t. We just didn’t play well that one inning.”
Game two of the day went much different for Rider. With the Broncs offense going uncharacteristically cold in the first game, they quickly proved that was just a fluke. By the time Miami of Ohio had recorded an out, Rider was already up 3-0 due in part to junior catcher Socrates Bardatsos continuing his monster weekend. That wasn’t all the damage the Broncs were to do either. A five-run fifth was capped off by a three-run home run by Brendan O’Donnell making the score 8-0 Rider and they didn’t look back from there as they finished the game-winning 8-2.
Graduate student and starting pitcher Joe Papeo pitched one-hit ball through five innings before giving up a few hits in the fifth during the second game. After the Rider pitching struggled in the first half of the doubleheader, he knew the pressure was on for him to do very well and help his team get the win.
He said “For me, now my start becomes more important than it first did. Obviously, every time you pitch, it’s really important but now I really have to throw a good game, I really have to bear down and help the team out and try to win.”
On the hitting side, junior infielder John Volpe had one of his best games this season going 4-5 in the leadoff spot helping Rider pull off the win. “It definitely felt good. I was struggling early in the season. I wasn’t seeing the ball too well. I had to make some minor adjustments and I did it,” Volpe said. “As a leadoff guy, I know if one person goes [off], everyone goes [off]. It’s kind of just how baseball works.”
After one blowout from each side, both teams wanted the series win as they headed into game three.
Davis said “Anytime you play a three-game series on a weekend, you want to win the series. I think that’s kind of a mini-goal that you have. Obviously, we want to play well every time out and execute, throw strikes [and] do all the little things right. You’re trying to do all that regardless of win or lose, you don’t think about that too much right now.”
Just like the second game, the Broncs scored first off of sophomore catcher Brian Skettini who had an RBI single. They added to the lead in the second when O’Donnell hit yet another home run to put Rider up 2-0.
However, Miami of Ohio chipped away and eventually took the lead in the fourth inning. The Broncs answered right back with a Luke Lesch RBI single to tie the game at three. The next half-inning, the lead changed once again with a Cristian Tejada groundout putting the Redhawks up 4-3.
Rider didn’t let that lead last long either as they scored two in the sixth and went up once more. Miami continued the slugfest of a game by tying it in the seventh inning with a homer of their own from senior utility man Nick Neibauer.
After the barrage of runs, things settled down until the start of extra innings. Something clicked in the Broncs as Bardatsos hit a grand slam to take the lead for the final time before an out was recorded in the inning. Graduate student closer Cal Stalzer struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to give the Broncs the series win and push their record to 5-1 on the season.
Rider went out to a neutral field in Villanova to play Lafayette to finish their week. The game both started and finished similar to the first game in the Miami series as they lost 11-2, bringing their record to 5-2 on the year. Lafayette jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the fourth and did not look back.
The game wasn’t all bad for Rider. During a stretch in the middle of the game, the Rider bullpen managed to retire nine straight batters. However, they failed to do any damage on offense which doomed them in the end. The Broncs will play a series against Delaware this weekend looking to get back on the winning track.