By Luke Lombardi
Rider was swept by Fairfield in a doubleheader on Saturday, April 12. Rider would lose the first game 4-2 and the second game 5-3.
The Broncs were not able to retaliate against the Stags the following day after the games were postponed due to rain.
The first game was tied 1-1 until Fairfield busted the game open in the fifth inning when they took the lead and never looked back. Sophomore catcher Elena Gonzalez had the best hitting performance of the game for Rider going 2-for-4. Senior Debra Jones pitched seven innings, giving up 12 hits and striking out four.
Fairfield had a good performance from left fielder Alexa Ortman who went 2-3 with a run. Katie Kudlacik also pitched a complete game giving up seven hits and striking out six. She walked two batters during that game.
Rider had a chance to score late in the game, as they had the bases loaded, but were only able to score one run.
“You know, it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating because we had multiple opportunities. Earlier in the game, we also had bases loaded and we couldn’t execute and we couldn’t produce, so it’s very frustrating because we actually took ourselves out of it,” said Head Coach Davon Ortega. “We strike out looking with bases loaded. We strike out swinging. In that seventh inning, you make mental mistakes so it’s very frustrating to see us not do what we normally do and not be sharp.”
The second game didn’t fare much better for Rider. They were down 5-0 by the third inning and were never able to quite pull ahead as they fell 5-3.
Rider had two great offensive performances from center fielder Kelsey Marigliano and third baseman Brianna Koonce. Marigliano went 2-4 with a run and an RBI while Koonce went perfect for the game, going 3-3. Rider also got a great performance from relief pitcher Jackie Cal, who pitched four-and-one-third scoreless innings, giving up only three hits, while also striking out three batters.
Ortega had a lot of praise for Cal. She elaborated, “It was really great, Jackie [and] the pitching staff, even though we gave up seven hits against Fairfield, I think the pitching staff improved overall. Every weekend, we’re having one pitcher have a good performance here and then the next weekend, it’s another pitcher, so it’s really good that we took what we worked on all week and I saw improvement. Jackie, you know, that was a product of her improvement. She had a few goals this week and we worked really hard on them. Mentally, she was prepared, so it was really good for me to see that and also know she could go in and shut a team like Fairfield down in relief.”
When asked if she made any changes in between games to explain her productivity jump, Koonce answered, “During the first game, I was not seeing the ball as well as I usually would, so that’s why I made adjustments to my at-bats and I kept that throughout the entire second game, so that helped me. What also helped is I felt I used my speed a little bit to my advantage because I didn’t get great hits.”
Fairfield’s best hitting performance came from center fielder Sam Merino. She went 2-3 scoring twice as well. Fairfield also had a good performance from their relief pitcher Sam Lindsay. She pitched two scoreless innings, while only giving up three hits.
Ortega was not happy with the team’s performance on the day. She said, “The only thing we were today is flat. We made way too many mental mistakes and we weren’t aggressive at the bat like we have been the previous weekends.”
Even with the two losses, Rider is off to a pretty good start. They sit at an 8-4 record and the players are happy about it. Koonce proclaimed, “I would say that it gives us more confidence. Obviously, Rider hasn’t had this good of a start in a while. Going into the games, I felt like we had more confidence to win the game when we could up our chances of our rankings and stuff like that.”
Rider was disappointed they weren’t able to get some revenge on Sunday because of the rainout. Ortega explained, “It was really disappointing because, in my opinion, we didn’t play our best games on Saturday. We were hoping to be able to use Sunday to bounce back and kind of gain momentum heading into the next week, so it was very disappointing. We actually waited as long as possible and tried [to play], but we just couldn’t find a window of time to get it in.”
With the two losses on Saturday, Rider falls to a 3-23 all-time against Fairfield with their last win coming in 2019 with a 6-0 shutout. Ortega and the players don’t let their all-time record against a team factor into preparations.
Ortega said, “To be honest with you, it’s not something I pay attention to. I hadn’t even noticed it. I don’t look at that kind of stuff because when I’m preparing, I prepare for the current team and the team we’re playing and also knowing what my team has. I think that it probably makes sense statistically based on what the past teams at Rider have done.”
Rider next plays Saint Peters on April 14 in a doubleheader before playing Iona in a four-game series this weekend.