Broncs ground Griffins; win Liberty Bell Classic 

By Benjamin Shinault and Carolo Pascale

The last time Rider baseball lost a series was against the Oklahoma Sooners in late February. Since then, it’s been pure sovereignty for the Broncs. From April 14-16, the Broncs took down the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Champions, the Canisius Golden Griffins in a three-game set, now winning seven consecutive series. 

Coming off yet another conference series win, on April 18, the Broncs had the opportunity to play at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies against the Delaware Blue Hens in the Liberty Bell Classic Final. Just like their success in conference play, the Broncs handled the major league pressure with ease, winning the Liberty Bell Classic 8-3. 

A smack in the face

The Broncs have only lost in back-to-back games once this season and it was to the Sooners and with the loss to NJIT on April 11 and the Broncs dropping the first game of the series, the streak came to a halt.

At a sunny 83 degrees, the weather conditions were ideal for the Broncs, but it proved to be an off day for Rider, offensively and defensively. Senior pitcher Dylan Heine was the man throwing the ball on the mound for the Broncs. Heine had his worst start of the season, only pitching 3 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits, seven earned runs, while walking two and only striking out one batter. 

The Broncs struggled just as much at the plate, amounting only four hits and two runs. 

One of the two runs came from junior infielder Jordan Erbe, who hit a home run to left center. Erbe made an immediate impact, returning from a muscle injury that sidelined him since March 26.

‘Can’t ask for any better’

The Broncs were supposed to play at Trenton Thunder Ballpark on April 15 against Canisius, but with heavy rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, both athletic departments agreed to cancel the game and make it up as a doubleheader the following day. 

The Broncs in their seventh doubleheader this year, and won the first game 2-1.

The game was a certified pitching duel between graduate student pitcher Frank Doelling and Canisius starter Chris Pouliot. It was safe to assume that Doelling won the duel since his final line was five innings pitched, two hits and one earned run. 

“Five innings, one run, can’t ask for any better than that I guess, in the sense that the result is good,” said Head Coach Barry Davis. 

The successful result of the game wasn’t an easy one since Pouliot was painting the corners well and not allowing the Broncs to string anything together. 

In the bottom of the fourth, the Broncs showed life with sophomore designated hitter Matt Shepherd, who doubled down the left field line, scoring senior catcher Socrates Bardatsos. That double by Shepherd gave the Broncs a temporary lead with the Golden Griffins knotting the game back up at 1-1. 

The game was tied in the sixth until freshman outfielder Erich Hartmann popped one up near foul territory in shallow left field. The outfielder was unable to field it cleanly, leaving freshman infielder Will Gallagher to score the game-winning run.

It wasn’t an easy victory, but graduate student Danny Kirwin calmed the nerves of the 304 Rider fans in attendance with three innings of zero run ball, cementing the final score at 2-1 in the Broncs favor.

‘That’s a big series win’

After a slim victory and little offense the game before, the Broncs looked on to the final game of the series and doubleheader. The game was packed with action. The Broncs totaled 11 hits, eight runs and seven walks, ultimately leading to Rider’s win of 8-6. Adding on to the excitement and the more entertaining aspects of the second game was senior outfielder Brendan O’Donnell’s grand slam. 

Sophomore pitcher Brian Young got the start for Rider and continued his stretch of dominance.  In his past two outings, Young has struck out 14 batters. In the game against Canisius, Young earned an extra seven, giving him an astounding 21 strikeouts over three games. 

Young compared his performance at the beginning of the season versus now as, “night and day.” 

“Lately I’ve been working with someone that has helped me a lot mentally,” said Young.

The Broncs offense was electric Sunday with tons of hard hit balls, grounders that beat the shift and balls into the gap. The offense lit the flame in the bottom of the first with a grand slam from O’Donnell. 

With two outs and the bases juiced, O’Donnell knew he had to start up the offense and walked through what his mental approach was at the plate.

“Bases full there and nowhere to put you, less than two outs, you are looking something up to drive and he left a changeup out over the plate and I was able to stay through long enough, keep it straight and hit it out,” said O’Donnell. 

Liberty Bell Classic

After getting revenge against Canisius, the Broncs had the opportunity to play in Citizens Bank Park,  against Delaware in the Liberty Bell Classic Final on April 18. Rider left Philadelphia with a title in tow as they dominated the Blue Hens, winning 8-3.

The victory is the second time that the Broncs have won the Liberty Bell Classic, with their first win of the mid-season tournament coming in 2015.

Bardatsos played like a professional in the MLB ballpark, registering four hits, two runs, and an RBI. Three other Broncs registered two hits. 

The Broncs got on the board quickly with four hits in the first inning, giving them a 3-0 lead. 

From there, pitching was the story for the Broncs as freshman PJ Craig threw a superb opening five innings, registering six strikeouts and only allowing three hits against 23 batters.

The Broncs used three other pitchers: freshman Clayton Poliey, senior Alec Sachais, and Kirwin. Meanwhile, the Blue Hens couldn’t figure it out on the mound as they used an outlandish eight pitchers. 

The rest of the Broncs’ runs came in the final two innings, scoring one in the eighth and matching their first inning total of three in the ninth. 

The Broncs will have little time to celebrate, as the Princeton Tigers make the drive to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on April 19.

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