By Shanna O’Mara
After winning five of the first six conference games, the baseball team has moved into first place in the MAAC.
The Broncs (13-15, 5-1 MAAC) hosted a doubleheader on April 11, defeating Fairfield 7-4 then 5-2.
Junior outfielder James Locklear stressed the importance of the team’s recent success.
“Every conference game is big, every win is big, every inning, every pitch,” he said. “So when you get three [wins] against a very good team, that puts us in a good spot for the rest of the year.”
During the first game, Rider scored three runs on the first three hits, including a two-run single by junior infielder Patrick Murphy. Fairfield cut the lead to one during the fourth inning after a two-RBI single, but the Broncs came back to score another three runs in the bottom of the inning off of two hits and two errors from the Stags.
Of Rider’s eight hits, three came from senior third baseman Nick Richter, who scored twice during the game. Sophomore catcher Lee Lipinski also brought in two runs.
Senior Zach Mawson pitched seven innings, striking out six, before sophomore Josh Sharik and senior Eric Thomas each pitched an inning of relief to seal the win.
During the second game, the Stags (7-20, 3-9 MAAC) scored twice in the second inning, quickly taking the lead, but the Broncs came back in the fifth. They scored all five runs, with RBI singles by three seniors — shortstop Mike Parsons, outfielder Greg Fazio and first baseman Justin Thomas, who had two of Rider’s seven hits.
A single game was held on April 12 during which Rider completed the sweep by defeating Fairfield with a score of 8-6. After giving up a lead-off single, the Broncs turned a double play followed by a pop fly to left field. This quick inning had the Broncs feeling confident, but the Stags soon retaliated, scoring two runs in the top of the second.
Freshman pitcher Nick Margevicius threw aggressively, allowing no additional runs while Rider tied the score during the bottom of the second inning with a two-run double by senior catcher Eric Strano. They then gained the lead with another run in the third.
Locklear stepped to the plate during the fourth inning with the bases loaded and two outs and smashed a three-run triple into right field.
“We needed a couple runs in that inning,” Locklear said. “I took a good swing, it went over that kid’s head, and we scored three runs. We needed that because they ended up coming back at the end so I’m glad I was able to help the team.”
Fairfield nearly tied up the game with four runs during the seventh inning but was held off by Bronc defense.
Rider’s offense struck one last time in the eighth when Lipinski scored after a bases-loaded walk, leaving the final score at 8-6.
Head Coach Barry Davis believes that while it’s always more important to win the series, a sweep can only add to the success.
“It is important to win, the series one, and to sweep is a bonus,” Davis said. “Hopefully we will use that to springboard us a bit further.”
Prior to the series, Rider also defeated NJIT (15-11-1) on April 8 by a score of 7-4. The Broncs scored two runs on two hits during the second inning, including a double by Fazio.
The scoring continued the next inning when Fazio later hit a three-run home run. The Highlanders, however, scored a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to cut the Rider lead down to 5-3.
In the eighth, a run was scored for the Broncs when freshman infielder Jake Bender hit into a fielder’s choice, and they scored again when junior outfielder Jordan Leinweber had an RBI double.
NJIT scored again in the bottom of the inning, but could not score anymore as Rider won the game.
The combined efforts of four pitchers — freshman CJ Hirschy, sophomore Mike Diorio, freshman Paul Sparano and Eric Thomas — allowed only four NJIT runs in nine innings.
The Broncs will travel to Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, on April 15 to play Villanova in the Liberty Bell Classic title game. The game was originally scheduled for April 14, but the game was rained out. A road game against Wagner in Staten Island, New York, scheduled for April 15 has been consequently canceled.
Davis stressed that although it is important to take in the atmosphere of a Major League ballpark, winning is still the priority.
“I’m sure that’ll be a good experience for all of us, and I’m looking forward to sitting in the dugout and coaching,” Davis said. “We’ll try to enjoy it, but we also want to win the game and play well.”