Struggles continue in road odyssey

Junior first baseman Riley Mihalik hit a three-run homerun in a 13-4 victory over Campbell on March 14. Mihalik has a 10-game hitting streak.

By Rob Rose 

The baseball team continued its slow start to the season, losing 11 of its last 12 games, including a 21-1 blowout at the hands of Elon on March 17. Rider is currently on a three-game losing streak since winning at Campbell on March 14.

The Broncs have played every game so far this season on the road, competing in six states and traveling as far as South Carolina. They are averaging 3.3 runs during their last 12 games, twice being shut out, while allowing an average of 8.4 runs per game.

Rider began a three-game series with Navy on March 9. Freshman Joe Papeo took the mound for the Broncs and pitched five innings, allowing eight runs, although only three were earned. Rider committed three errors in the game, giving Navy the chance to build on its lead and ultimately secure a 10-4 victory.

“We played poor defense,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. “If we make the routine play, I think the game is a little different. Not saying we would win the game, but we just don’t give ourselves the chance.”

In the second game of the series, sophomore Pete Soporowski got the start, pitching six and a third innings and allowing three runs. The game was tied at three entering the eighth inning, after sophomore catcher Tyler Stockwell delivered an RBI single to bring in sophomore outfielder Joe Simone.

After an error and wild pitch by junior CJ Hirschy, the Midshipmen scored twice in the bottom of the eighth, clinching the 5-3 victory.

Navy completed the sweep of Rider on March 11, winning 4-3 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.

“We have to learn how to win and do the things it takes to win,” said Davis. “There’s a plethora of examples right now and we are not doing them.”

On March 13, Rider traveled to North Carolina for a two-game series with Campbell.

Freshman Ray Pacella made his first career start and allowed four runs in one and two-third innings. The Broncs struck out 17 times in the game and committed three errors during the 9-0 loss.

“We were overmatched from the get-go,” said Davis. “We’ll see what kinds of pride we have tomorrow.”

The following day, Rider snapped its losing streak with a 13-4 victory over Campbell. Stockwell had a career day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with five RBI. Junior first baseman Riley Mihalik hit his first homerun of the year with a three-run shot in the eighth inning.

Following its first victory in two weeks, Rider began a three-game series with Elon. The Broncs were dominated in each game of the series, allowing an average of 15.6 runs per game.

“We were not prepared,” said Davis. “The high-level mindset required to win at this level is not visible. It’s on me, and I’ll fix it one way or another.”

The Phoenix totaled 24 hits in the 21-1 victory on March 17, and they scored 11 runs off of Soporowski over four innings. Mihalik extended his hitting streak to 10 games during the series and recorded his 100th career hit.

The Broncs’ record is now 5-14 with four games remaining before MAAC play begins. Last season, Rider finished in sixth place, 12-12 in conference play.

“Do your job. Come out there and play hard every single day, no matter what,” said junior pitcher Jordan Silverman, on Davis’ message to the team after a slow start. “That’s what we’re known for, we’re always a tough team to play.”

Rider will play its first home games of the season on March 24 in a double-header against LIU Brooklyn at 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Follow Rob Rose on Twitter for the latest news on Rider baseball.

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