Broncs sweep Bobcats in MAAC opener

By Benjamin Shinault

After riding a five-game losing streak, Rider baseball finally put it to bed with a weekend-series sweep of the Quinnipiac Bobcats on March 24.

The series happened to be the opener of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, pausing Rider’s rough out-of-conference schedule.

The Broncs also finally made their way back home to Sonny Pittaro Field to take on the Villanova Wildcats in which they won 9-7.

Doubleheader, double win

Per usual, Connecticut weather conditions in the month of March were sunny yet chilly. This weekend, however, Rider’s bats were red hot as it scored 33 runs over the three games against the Bobcats. The first game of the doubleheader on March 22 saw sophomore pitcher Clayton Poliey take the mound, coming off MAAC Pitcher of the Week recognition after his electric performance against Duke on March 12. 

Poliey wasn’t as dominant, but still did well, as he finished with five innings pitched, only allowing three hits and striking out two Bobcats. The offense, on the other hand, was the star of the game, as it got rolling in the top half of the third inning when freshman infielder Joe Tiroly put one over the left field fence to give the Broncs an early two-run lead. Junior catcher Matt Shepard, a transfer from Rowan College of South Jersey, had a good day at the plate as well with three total base hits and three runs batted in.

With elite pitching and constant hard contact from the Broncs, they never trailed in game one of the doubleheader against Quinnipiac. That wasn’t the case in the second game of the doubleheader.

The Bobcats were able to put three runs on the board after nailing sophomore pitcher PJ Craig for three earned runs in the first, with two of those three runs coming from a two-run shot to left field. 

Luckily for the Broncs’ pitching staff, Rider’s offense came to play as they ripped away from the Bobcats the very next inning and put five runs on the board to go up 6-4 entering the third inning. Much of this was due to a grand slam from freshman infielder Matt Leahy.

“I just walked up to the plate with the bases loaded and I honestly was just trying to get the ball in play, … He [Bobcats pitcher] just threw me a fastball and I was all over it,” Leahy said.

Fast forward a few innings to the top of the ninth with the game knotted up at eight, senior catcher Brian Skettini stepped up to the plate and connected on a ball that would give the Broncs the lead and ultimate win and sweep of the doubleheader. 

“Overall, it’s the best we’ve been all year offensively,” Head Coach Barry Davis said after the Quinnipiac victory. “Some big hits all day.”

Finishing off the Bobcats

Rider kept rolling the very next day when it took on the Bobcats with an 11-1 win in the final game of the series. 

Junior pitcher Brian Young had a good day on the bump as he pitched five innings, allowed five hits and managed to send seven Bobcats packing. With Young’s dominant outing on the mound, he was awarded MAAC Pitcher of the Week on March 26.

With the Quinnipiac sweep, Rider was able to take an early advantage in MAAC standings with an undefeated record against its conference rivals.

Undefeated at home

Rider returned home and was set to face off against the Villanova Wildcats. Rider took its home field advantage seriously as they won 9-7. 

Both Skettini and Leahy both had three hits a piece in the victory. 

The Broncs stuffed the stat sheet in the middle innings with three runs each. Villanova made it interesting late, but the bullpen held firm.

Rider will welcome Saint Peter’s at Sonny Pittaro Field for their next matchup, which will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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