Softball breaks even as nine game losing streak comes to a close

By Andrew Smolar and Logan VanDine

The Broncs brutal season continued on April 5 as their losing streak extended to nine games after a double-header against in-state foe Seton Hall. After seemingly hitting rock bottom, the Broncs returned home and finally found some winning ways by defeating Morgan State twice on April 11.

Robbed by the Pirates

The first game started as best as it could have for the Broncs, scoring three runs in both the first and second innings which gave them a 6-0 lead right off the bat. They added another run in the fourth and three more in the fifth courtesy of a three-run homer, giving them a massive 10-0 lead. After obtaining a double-digit lead, things went south fast.

The Pirates used a three-run home run as a catalyst for a five-run bottom of the fifth. They followed that up by scoring another four in the bottom of the sixth, helped by a two-run homer. A walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh turned a seemingly insurmountable 10-0 deficit into an 11-10 victory for Seton Hall.  

Despite the loss, it was an unbelievable game for sophomore infielder Olivia Burroughs. In addition to her three-run homer in the fifth, she added another two RBI’s on a pair of doubles. Overall, Burroughs went 4-4 from the plate with five RBI’s.

The second game also saw the Broncs grab a lead, but eventually lose. After three innings of scoreless ball and a combined three hits, Rider got the first run of the game courtesy of an RBI groundout by Burroughs, her sixth total RBI of the day; however, that lead wouldn’t last long.

After getting two hits and a walk to load the bases, the Pirates got a crucial two-run single to grab the lead in the bottom of the fifth. A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth provided all the insurance Seton Hall would need to earn a 3-1 victory. 

It was a frustrating game for the Broncs, only obtaining four hits and leaving eight runners on base. Considering the Pirates left 11 runners on base themselves, Rider had plenty of chances to win the game, but just couldn’t score runs. 

‘It felt really good’

In convincing fashion, the Broncs were able to put an end to their nine game losing streak and win the first game of their doubleheader against the Morgan State Bears winning emphatically by a score of 9-1 in six innings on April 11.

The Broncs got off to a great start on offense thanks to some miscues by the Bears defense. In the bottom of the first, freshman outfielder Julia Harsche reached first on a bunt single and then advanced on a throwing error, allowing all three runners, including herself, to score to give the Broncs an instant 3-0 lead.

The offense did not stop there as in the bottom of the third, Harsche this time used her power to add another run on the board by hitting a solo home run making it 4-0. Afterwards, Freshman pitcher Jadeyn Merrill made it 7-0 on a three-run homer.

“It felt really good, we’ve been getting really close and we keep making good contact and doing good things so we knew eventually it will happen. It was just a matter of time,” Head Coach Davon Ortega said.

The Bears would get one back, but Rider added two more runs making it 9-1 which ended the game by mercy rule.

The biggest story of the first game was junior pitcher Jessie Niegocki who was dominant in a six-inning complete game, 13 strikeout performance. It was a new career high for her in strikeouts and only allowed three hits and one run along the way.

Ortega spoke highly of her starter and explained why she was so successful and able to strike out nine of her first 12 batters she faced.

“She was fresh, she was rested today, she had a different mindset and a different approach going into [the first game] and I think she was ready. She said you didn’t need to warm up anybody out of the bullpen in relief and she said she’s got it,” Ortega said.

Niegocki also talked about her strong start against the Bears and what she thought she had working the most for her.

“I just had an attack mentality, I think sometimes we get caught up in trying to dance around the batters. We just need to go after them and I think overall as a pitching staff we did really well today,” Niegocki said.

The second game for the Broncs found equal success against the Bears as this time it was more of a tightly contested game for the most part until the Broncs put the game away for good in the late innings winning by a score of 5-2 to win back to back games for the first time this season.

After a scoreless first innings, the Broncs just like in the first game started the scoring thanks to a Bears’ throwing error that allowed sophomore first baseman Olivia Burroughs to score to make the game 1-0.

Looking to expand their lead in the third, third baseman Brianna Koonce ripped a two run single to score two more runs for Broncs to make the score 3-0 and eventually a 5-1 lead adding some insurance in the sixth inning to give them the win.

Ortega was satisfied with the second win and a row and hopes that her squad can put an end to a problem that was occurring all season for them.

“I’m very satisfied, our problem lately has been putting a team away and being able to close out a game when we have a lead,” Ortega said.

With these back to back wins, Ortega talked about how she thinks her team can build off this momentum they have gained.

“We just have to carry the momentum, we feel good now, we’re doing a lot of good things and our goal is to just carry that momentum over,” she said.

The Broncs will look to make it three in a row as they will stay home and face Monmouth University on April 13 at 3:00 p.m.    

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