Weekend sweep puts Broncs atop MAAC

Tyler Smith picks up his 19th career win against Canisius, pitching eight innings and surrendering three runs.

By Steve Sica

The Broncs are starting to find their groove after winning four straight games this past week.

With a weekend series sweep of Canisius (21-10, 4-5 MAAC) and victories against Lehigh (17-16, 4-4 Patriot League) on April 9 and New Jersey Institue of Technology (NJIT) (9-18, 0-3 Great West) on April 10, the Broncs have some momentum in their favor as the season enters the midway point.

“Sweeping Canisius helped our confidence because they are always one of the top teams in our league,” sophomore pitcher Kurt Sowa said. “I think everyone just believes in themselves and that we have a team that can win our conference.”

Senior pitcher Chris Taylor feels the Broncs (18-12, 51 MAAC) are setting themselves up for long-term success.

“It puts us in a great position for the rest of the year,” Taylor said. “It makes us feel great about our chances, which has our confidence going in the right direction.”

While the Broncs did earn multiple wins this week, Head Coach Barry Davis is still concerned about his team’s performance.

“We played poorly on April 9 — about as bad as you could and still win,” Davis said. “April 10 was better. We needed to close the game out, but errors and poor situational hitting allowed NJIT back in the game. We were fortunate to win either game.”

Sophomore infielder Greg Fazio believes there’s always room for improvement.

“I personally feel a little disappointed in my performance this season thus far,” Fazio said. “But it’s good to have solid teammates that pick you up when you need it.”

Taylor has been content with his own results.

“So far I’ve been happy with how I’ve performed in the critical situations that I’ve pitched in,” Taylor said. “I want to be able to pitch as best as I can to help my team continue winning.”

Davis has seen a lot of positives out of his team this season, with two players in particular who have stood out to him.

“Tyler Smith has been very consistent on the mound,” Davis said. “[Junior outfielder] Jerry Mulderig has also been solid offensively.”

With this week behind them, the Broncs are now looking forward to this weekend when they take on the defending MAAC champion, the Manhattan Jaspers (14-15, 5-4 MAAC).

“Manhattan is always a competitive series,” Davis said. “We need to play at a very high level to win.”

Fazio feels that a high-tempo game will favor the Broncs.

“We know Manhattan is always good and will always be challenging so I’m sure we will try to duplicate the intensity,” Fazio said. “We need this weekend to help our positioning.”

Rider currently sits in the top spot of the conference with a 5-1 record while Manhattan is in fourth.

The Broncs are taking practice very seriously leading up to the series to ensure they are ready.

“We will practice stopping the running game and defending the bunt,” Sowa said. “Then we will just focus on the things that we can control, like making pitches, fielding the ball and hitting the ball.”

With the Broncs now playing more conference teams, Davis believes that his team is ready to take the next step and solidify a playoff spot in the MAAC tournament.

“The guys are aware of and know the challenge that is ahead,” he said.

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