Broncs off to historic MAAC start

By Benjamin Shinault

With a series sweep over the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, Rider has won its first six Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchups to give it a record of 6-0, a program-history best. The Broncs welcomed the Peacocks and sent them home with their feathers ruffled, putting up 26 runs over the three games. 

Friday doubleheader

The clock struck noon and Rider was ready to play baseball. Sophomore pitcher PJ Craig laced up his cleats and stepped on the mound. Coming off a rocky outing against Quinnipiac where he allowed six earned runs and 10 hits, Craig was slightly better against Saint Peter’s, only allowing eight hits and five earned runs in his 5.1 innings pitched. 

Craig was on cruise control until the fifth inning, when the Peacocks were able to put up five runs, giving them a 5-3 lead over Rider. In the top of the sixth, the Peacocks put up one more run, but that measly three-run deficit didn’t last, and graduate student first baseman Luke Lesch brought Rider back into striking distance with a two-run double.

With Rider down one, Saint Peter’s was able to grow its lead by one with an RBI single to center field off a pitch from freshman pitcher Jake Dorety. Down by two entering the ninth inning, the Broncs charged ahead and trampled the Peacocks, putting up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to give them the walkoff win 8-7. 

Graduate student infielder Jack Winsett was the one to win it after bringing in sophomore outfielder Anthony Paskell.

“It was good to battle back and get three runs in the bottom half. It was a momentum swing a little bit,” Head Coach Barry Davis said.

With the Broncs riding high from their walkoff win, the offense translated smoothly into game two as the Broncs had 10 base hits and 10 runs. 

The Peacocks got off to a good start against Rider sophomore pitcher Clayton Poliey. Saint Peter’s was able to put four runs up on the board in the early stages, but after that, Rider was able to crawl all the way back and stay within striking distance. The Broncs did not hold back when they struck the Peacocks as they went off to score seven more runs and get the win 10-8. 

A bulk of the runs that gave Rider the win came in the fifth and sixth innings. Junior catcher Matt Shepherd hit one out to bring Rider within two and then after, the Broncs used infield singles to ultimately crawl all the way back and sweep the doubleheader.

‘I fought back’

Reigning MAAC pitcher of the week, junior Brian Young, did his best to defend his title as he coasted through the Peacocks’ lineup March 30. Young, making his seventh start of the season, might have had his best. Young struck out nine Peacocks, a career high, and threw four consecutive scoreless innings.

“It was good to get out there and do my job and give my team a chance to win,” Young said. 

Over his past two starts, Young has struck out 16 batters and has only conceded four earned runs. 

“His numbers are not reflective of how he has pitched lately, which has been very good,” Davis said of Young’s mid-season turnaround.

Despite the brisk weather and playing a day after a doubleheader, the Broncs were still successful at the dish, totaling eight runs once again, the tenth time this season that Rider has reached eight runs.

Sophomore outfielder Erich Hartmann and Paskell both had solid games, as they had two RBIs each between themselves.

Rider was able to get on the board first with two unearned runs in the bottom of the first. Saint Peter’s scored three runs in the third inning but were only able to add one more in the eighth. By then, they were already down big, as Rider was atop by three entering the ninth. Rider walked away with the 8-4 victory, winning its seventh straight and remaining undefeated in MAAC play.

“We’re excited to be 6-0, I mean the goal is to get into the tournament, and with a start like this, you want to obviously take that momentum and move forward,” Davis said. 

Rider will hit the grass again at home on April 5 when it takes on the Siena Saints. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ at 3 p.m.

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