Broncs win 3 of 7 in up-and-down weekend

By Logan VanDine

It has been a season full of streaks for the Rider Softball team and this past week was no different. The Broncs were able to win their first two games against Monmouth and Maris, running their win streak up to seven and then lose their next four followed by a dramatic, walk-off win against Saint Peters.

‘Jessie kept us in the game’

In another dominant starting pitch, junior starting pitcher Jessie Niegocki starred for the Broncs for her third straight win and the Broncs sixth overall in a 3-2 victory over Monmouth on April 19 in the first of seven weekend matchups.

The Broncs started the scoring early and Niegocki this time with the bat helped her own cause to start the game with a leadoff hit and then scored on a RBI groundout to make the score 1-0.

The game remained that way up to the sixth inning and with the Broncs looking for some breathing room, they got just that.

Senior pinch hitter Chaela Crowder hit a clutch two-out, two-run single that made the score 3-0 which proved to be the difference maker as the Hawks followed in the bottom of the seventh inning scoring two unearned runs but Niegocki was able to hold on for the complete game effort striking out two batters and only giving up seven hits.

“We didn’t generate a ton of offense today, but I like the way Jessie kept us in the game and we scraped and scratched out a few runs,” Head Coach Davon Ortega said.

Despite another complete game thrown by Niegocki thought she was not as sharp as she normally is but gave kudos to her defense.

“The goal was to just keep the same attack mindset that the pitching staff has carried through the last couple of starts. I wasn’t as on as I was the past two starts, pitching more to contact than the previous games but my defense had my back today,” Niegocki said.

Broncs ride seven train

In a close game, the Broncs got the best of the Marist Red Foxes and extended their winning streak to seven in a 5-4 thriller on April 22.

After a scoreless couple of innings, Niegocki, who made her second start of the weekend, gave up a run in the third inning followed by another in the fourth to give Marist a 2-0 lead. 

But that lead did not last for the Red Foxes as in the bottom half of the fourth, it was junior outfielder Laneya Wright who hit a two out, two-run homer to tie up the game at two.

Looking to take the lead for the first time in game one of the doubleheader, the Broncs did just that, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth on a two run single by pinch-hitter by Chaela Crowder to make the score 4-2. 

The Broncs added another on a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2 and eventually a 5-4 Broncs win for their seventh straight win.

Ortega was especially happy with her team’s effort in game one as they were going up against one of the best pitchers in the conference (Metro-Atlantic-Athletic-Conference) in Calista Phippen.

“I feel really good about this win, that’s on the best pitchers in the conference, she’s been one of the best pitchers in the conference for a couple years now and they are one of the strongest teams in the conference so for us to stay in the game and come back, we feel really confident about our chances,” said Ortega.

‘We need more intensity’

All winning streaks must come to an end and unfortunately for the Broncs, this one did. In a game full of exceptional defensive plays by both teams, it was Marist who capitalized most of their defense to win game two of the doubleheader and end the Broncs win streak at seven with a 5-3 loss.

Looking to build on winning the first game, the second game of this doubleheader did not get off to the start the Broncs wanted as sophomore pitcher Kathryn Schmierer gave up a two run single in the top of the first putting the Broncs in an instant hole.

The third inning did not go any better for the Broncs and Schimierer as she gave up another run in the top of that inning and with hits coming left and right for Marist, Ortega pulled Schimierer after 2 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits.

The Broncs would make it interesting later on in the game after being down 4-1, the Broncs were able to score two in the bottom of the sixth to make it a one run game. But Marist added some much needed insurance tacking on another run in the seventh to make it 5-3 which would be the final.

“We lack intensity right now, we need to have a little more intensity early on in games and bounce back. We’re the home team, we need to take two from them and understand that we’re trying to get into the playoffs,” Ortega said bluntly. 

We need to do better’

Looking to avenge their first loss since April 5, the Broncs missed out on golden opportunities and let one slip away from the Siena Saints on April 23 losing in game one of the doubleheader 3-2.

The Saints struck first in the top of the first inning as they scored a run off an RBI single against  Niegocki to make the game 1-0.

The Broncs answered on a Saints error that knotted the score up at one and after a scoreless couple of innings, the Saints got the lead right back in the fifth on a two-out, two-run double to give them a 3-1. Rider would add a run in the bottom half of the fifth but that was all they could get the rest of the game dropping game one.

“We didn’t string any timely hits together, we need to do a little bit better with the runners that we had on base, we just didn’t get any timely hits,” Ortega said.

A heartbreaker

In a game that Broncs had in the palm of their hands, they let it slip away at the very end, blowing a 3-0 and leaving an astounding ten runners on base to lose to Siena to drop both games of their doubleheader.

The Broncs had a 3-0 lead for the most part of this game and Schmierer was pitching one of her better games of the season but that all fell  apart in the seventh as she gave up a base-clearing, three-run double and then an infield RBI  single to drop a heartbreaker to Siena.

“We have to figure out the seventh inning, we put pressure on ourselves, we can’t hold a lead in the seventh inning, it’s been our nemesis,” said Ortega.

Doubleheader split

Looking to snap their three-game skid, the Broncs were no match against Saint Peter’s as they got rolled on against the Peacocks, 11-3 in six innings in game one of a doubleheader on April 25. 

The Broncs were in instant trouble right away as Niegocki gave up a three-run homer in the top of the first followed up by a two-run blast in the second to put the Pirates up 5-0.

Rider did make it interesting in the fifth as they entered that inning down 6-0 but cut the league in half scoring three but that was all they would get as the pirates five in the sixth to mercy the Broncs 11-3. 

Game two seemed like something out of a movie as the Broncs rallied to stun the Pirates with four in the seventh to split the doubleheader 7-6.

Rider got off to a fast start unlike the first game with two runs in the bottom of the second to give them a 2-0 lead and things were looking good.

But it all unraveled in the third as Niegocki, who started the second game as well, gave up a run and then was pulled after 3 2/3 innings but that did not matter as the Pirates still feasted off the Broncs’ pitching staff scoring two more runs in the inning followed by a run in the fourth and the fifth giving Saint Peter’s a 6-3 lead.

But the Broncs remained resilient as they rallied in the bottom of the seventh taking advantage of four Saint Peter’s errors and miscues to tie up the game in the seventh and eventually a walkoff hit by senior third baseman Brianna Koonce to give the Broncs a 7-6 win and a split of the doubleheader.

The Broncs will be back in action on April 26 as they will travel to Drexel University for a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. 

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