By Carlos Toro
The softball team split a home conference series against Manhattan on April 16, keeping the team in contention for a MAAC Tournament spot.
After the series split, the Broncs (5-28, 2-6 MAAC) competed in two close road games against Lafayette on April 17.
Head Coach Jaclyn Timko said that beating Manhattan was a big step for the program and that the team got some needed momentum.
“The split with Manhattan was huge for us,” Timko said. “Any time you can battle and walk away with a win from one of the stronger programs in the conference, it is a real confidence boost and it helped push us in the right mindset for our attack on the rest of the conference.”
Against Manhattan (18-14, 4-4 MAAC), Rider allowed three runs to kick off game one of the doubleheader. The Broncs did not score until the bottom of the seventh inning, when they scored one run, but the deficit had increased to nine runs, when the Jaspers scored three runs each in the fourth and seventh innings.
The second game of the doubleheader, however, started differently, with Rider taking the lead in the first inning. Sophomore shortstop Monica Clark kicked off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to right.
After a double from senior first baseman Dana Sensi, senior third baseman Emily Cottrell became the 51st Bronc in program history to have 100 career hits when she singled in the bottom of the first. Senior right fielder Montana Berg drove Sensi home with a single to left.
While Manhattan did put up a fight and scored three total runs — two in the second inning and one in the third — Rider responded by exploding with four runs in the fifth inning. The offense was led by Sensi’s bases-clearing double, which allowed the Broncs to retake the lead and gave them the victory.
Sensi went two for three in the second game while Cottrell had four hits in the doubleheader. Redshirt sophomore Kaitlyn Kallert pitched a complete game, allowing three runs, one of which was unearned.
The team then traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania, for a two-game series against Lafayette (12-24, 2-7 Patriot League) on April 18. Down 2-1 in the fifth inning of game one, junior outfielder Josettee Spencer reached base on a one-out error. With two outs, Sensi doubled to tie the score 2-2.
Senior Kim Valdes followed with an RBI double to score Sensi and give the Broncs a one-run lead. Then, Cottrell struck her fifth home run of the season, making the score 5-2 Rider. The Leopards then scored eight unanswered runs to win the first game 10-5.
In the second game, both teams were tied at one run each in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Lafayette capitalized on two Bronc errors to pick up five hits and five runs.
But Rider would not be silenced as it responded with five runs of its own in the top half of the fifth inning when Spencer hit a bases-clearing double and Sensi hit a two-run homer to center field to tie the game at six runs each.
Sophomore catcher Keira Swank gave the Broncs some last-minute hope because of a sacrifice fly that drove Cottrell, who doubled at the beginning of the seventh inning, home, but the team could not score one more run to have a chance of winning.
Timko said that despite the sweep, there were some positives to take from the games.
“Over the weekend, we had the ability to move some people around, try some new things with the line-up, and really practice on consistency and executing,” Timko said. “We had some great at-bats, we were able to score with runners on and that’s where you want to be moving into this weekend.”
The team will have a non-conference doubleheader against Villanova on April 20 starting at 3 p.m. It will be the first two games of an eight- game home stand that will also have doubleheaders against conference foes Siena, Marist and St. Peter’s from April 23-26.
Timko said this upcoming series against Villanova is going to be an important preparation for the conference games ahead, which in turn will show if the team will stay in the hunt for a berth in the MAAC Tournament.
“Every game is a game to get better,” Timko said. “I like to think of these non-conference series as an elevated practice. We will use this midweek series to improve on our at-bats and get more quality reps on defense.”