By Carlos Toro
The Broncs played seven games in four days at the Liberty Classic in Lynchburg, Virginia, going a combined 1-6 against Princeton, Toledo, Liberty, North Carolina Central, Kent State, and Saint Francis.
Junior first baseman Dana Sensi led the Broncs’ offense in the tournament with five home runs. She is currently second in the MAAC in home runs with six and RBIs with 16.
Sophomore starting pitcher Delany DeMello, who won MAAC Pitcher of the Week for the week of March 9-15, thinks that despite the losses, the team can improve from them.
“The team definitely learned a lot,” DeMello said. “Some of the games didn’t look that close, but it came down to the little things that the competition did that we didn’t. We learned that we need to play as a team.”
After losing the first three games to Princeton, Liberty, and Toledo, the Broncs were in the middle of a five-game losing streak and faced off against North Carolina Central (12-12) on March 20.
The Lady Eagles scored in the bottom of the first thanks to a throwing error by freshman right fielder Monica Clark.
Rider (5-12) tied the game in the top of the third when senior outfielder Amanda Irving reached on an error and scored on another error.
Irving bunted to reach first base in the top of the fifth and Sensi homered to right field to give her career hit number 101 and the Broncs a 3-1 lead. Sensi felt accomplished to have gotten over 100 hits as a Bronc.
“Getting my 100th hit felt good, and I was happy to contribute to the win,” Sensi said. “With the win, Delany Demello pitched an outstanding game and our bats collectively came alive.”
The Broncs’ bats did their job, especially in the seventh inning. Sensi opened it with a home run — the beginning of an eight run explosion that sealed the game in Rider’s favor.
Demello had another strong outing, as she allowed six hits and no earned runs in seven innings pitched.
The Broncs lost to Kent State 13-0 and to Saint Francis 4-1 on March 21. Rider had one more chance to salvage the tournament with two wins as they faced the Lady Eagles again on March 22.
North Carolina Central scored in the second and third innings to give them an early 2-0 lead. Sensi had another home run, her sixth in the year, to start the bottom of the third inning to cut the deficit in half.
The Lady Eagles scored again in the fourth when their junior outfielder Markell Wylie hit a sacrifice fly to push the lead back to two runs.
Rider senior shortstop Gina McCool and DeMello each had an RBI at the bottom of the inning to tie the game up at three. Both teams would score again in the fifth inning.
Sophomore first baseman Brianna Hampton hit a single to break the tie in the final inning. Rider had another chance to win, but a strikeout and double play ended the game.
Rider’s home opener is scheduled for March 25, when Rider hosts Fairleigh Dickinson (3-8) in a non-conference doubleheader. They then face off against Monmouth (3-11) to open conference play on March 28 at home.
Sensi and the team are excited for the games this week, but also have the chance to surpass last year’s win total, a testament to the improvement of the team.
“Most of last year’s team has returned and matured with experience and skill while also adding new team members who will have a positive impact on our season this year,” Sensi said. “We have been playing very good teams this past week and we are very excited to start conference play on Saturday.”