By Benjamin Shinault
ON March 24-28, the Rider baseball team returned to Sonny Pittaro Field for the first time this season. The Broncs have been bussing all around the country playing America’s pastime and finally hit the brakes in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The Broncs began Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play with a series against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, winning 2-of-3 games, and then beat Delaware State 5-1 on March 28.
Starting hot at home
It was senior Dylan Heine’s turn to pitch for the Broncs on March 24, with both him and his coaches hoping for a repeat of his last appearance. He pitched five full innings, only allowing three earned runs and striking out six Villanova Wildcats.
Heine did even better this time against Quinnipiac. He pitched another five innings, didn’t allow any runs and struck out six whimpering, helpless Bobcats.
Offensively, the Broncs did what they are known for: scoring runs. This time around, Rider scored 11 runs, making it the fifth time this season they have scored 10-plus runs.
The scoring began in the first inning when senior infielder John Volpe scored an unearned run, making the score 1-0. Soon after, senior infielder Luke Lesch ripped one to right field. Fast forward to the sixth inning: the score was 3-0 with the Broncs on top, and senior outfielder Brendan O’Donnell stepped up to the plate. O’Donnell saw a pitch and swung the metal bat before the ball suddenly found itself sailing over the left field fence, making it 5-0.
O’Donnell wasn’t done making an impact as he doubled down the line to score an additional two runs, making the score 7-0. Senior infielder Jack Winsett also contributed separate two-RBI singles in back-to-back innings, giving him four runs batted in on the day.
The Bobcats scored three earned runs in the ninth inning, but the Broncs had plenty of insurance runs and took game one of the three-game set, 11-3.
Doelling’s domination continues
Fresh off a blowout win and a day off thanks to some rain, the Broncs were ready to play some more baseball against Quinnipiac on March 26.
The weather was impeccable as the sun was high in the sky, a slight cool breeze present and temperatures in the mid-to-low 60s. As soon as the field was ready for baseball, graduate student pitcher Frank Doelling took the mound.
Doelling got right to work for the Broncs striking out two of the first three batters he faced. Doelling went on to strike out three more batters, finishing his day on the mound only allowing five hits and one walk.
“My arm felt really good today. I was able to throw my pitches for strikes and put them where I needed to,” Doelling said postgame.
Doelling’s elite performance on the bump was not taken for granted as the Broncs offense held their own with 13 hits and eight runs.
The Broncs opened up their offense in the bottom of third with a two-run double for senior catcher Socrates Bartdatsos.
Later in that same inning, Lesch got one to drop in shallow right field which allowed a run to score, making it 3-0. Bardatsos added another RBI with a sacrifice fly, making it 4-1.
Shortly after that in the seventh inning, O’Donnell singled in a run, making it 5-1. After a balk made the score 6-1, Winsett came up to the plate and added two runs with a single to left field which cemented the final score as 8-1.
Bobcats bite back
The rubber match of the series was all Bobcats. Sophomore pitcher Brian Young got the start for the Broncs and faced immediate turbulence on the mound.
Young was done after 1 1/3 innings as he gave up four hits, four earned runs, two walks and also a hit by pitch.
Freshman pitcher Clayton Poiley came into the game after Young and did a good job of maintaining the game and keeping the Broncs within striking distance. Poiley’s final line was three innings pitched, two hits, one earned run, five walks and four strikeouts.
“He did OK,” said Davis. “When you’re put in a situation where you’re five runs behind early, there’s not a lot of room for error.”
On the offensive side of things for the Broncs, O’Donnell was the lone star of the show, gathering four hits and being responsible for all two runs the Broncs scored in the 12-2 loss.
Taking two out of three against Quinnipiac was important for the team according to Davis.
“Well, if you win every series on a consistent basis, you’re going to be where you need to be at the end of the season,” said Davis.
Clutch hitting continues
After winning their opening MAAC play series against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, the Broncs played a Liberty Bell Classic game against Delaware State.
The Broncs bats came in clutch after going down early and helped the Broncs to a 5-1 win over the Hornets.
Freshman pitcher P.J. Craig got the start against the Hornets and had yet another solid outing with a final line of five innings, three hits, and two strikeouts.
The Broncs went down early following a solo-shot to right field but the Broncs didn’t get saddled up and would go on to score five unanswered runs.
Junior infielder Brian Skettini got the Broncs going in the bottom of the 5th with a two-run single and soon after, Lesch blistered a ball down the right field for an additional run.
After this win Rider’s record advanced to 16-8 on the season.
The Broncs next matchup is against the Niagara Purple Eagles in a three game set starting on March 31.