Broncs walk the plank, swept by ECU

By Benjamin Shinault

Rider baseball had quite the challenging start to its 2024 season as they traveled down to Greenville, North Carolina, on Feb. 16 to face off against the No. 11 East Carolina Pirates. 

In the three-game set, the Broncs were swept out of Clark-LeClair Stadium and were only able to score two runners the whole series. 

The Pirates scored 30.

‘It was good to get out’

While snow fell on Rider’s campus, the baseball team was sporting short sleeves and sunglasses down in North Carolina, playing in 60-degree weather. It wasn’t all sunshine, though, as the Broncs were dominated in most facets of their first game against East Carolina, losing 16-2.

To begin the season, Head Coach Barry Davis started junior left-handed pitcher Brian Young.

Young did not have his best performance on the mound, as the Pirates scored seven earned runs on five hits and two walks before Young could record a single out. 

Davis took out Young in the first inning, turning to sophomore pitcher Christian Aiello. Aiello went six innings, allowing only three earned runs and recording five strikeouts to tie his career high. 

“Aiello did an outstanding job. He gave us a chance with six innings, allowing only three runs. It was a quality outing,” Davis said to Rider Athletics.

A positive did emerge from the tough loss: freshman outfielder Kyle Neri, a transfer from Bryant, had two home runs in the loss, one in the third inning and one in the eighth inning. Those were the only runs and hits for the Broncs.

“Kyle Neri’s home runs made for a great debut for him,” Davis said.

Neri, in his first game sporting the black and cranberry, made an immediate impact when he stepped to the plate for Rider.

“It was a very proud moment for myself, but myself isn’t important when the team is down 7-1,” Neri said.

Despite him being on the other team, an additional remarkable storyline is that of Parker Byrd, a sophomore infielder and pitcher for the Pirates. who is the first NCAA Division I baseball player to play with a prosthetic leg, according to the Associated Press.

Byrd missed all of last season for the Pirates while recovering from a boating accident that led to his right leg being amputated. In his at-bat, he was able to draw a walk. 

‘We need to be more consistent’

In the second game, the Broncs looked  to try and steal a game from East Carolina, but it was more of the same for Rider, as they were shut out by the Pirates in a 7-0 plundering. 

Sophomore right-hander PJ Craig got the start and gave the Broncs three innings, but got dismantled by the Pirates as he allowed seven earned runs, two home runs and three walks. 

Similar to the first game, the Broncs’ bullpen was able to put out the fire after some adjustments, with two fresh arms in graduate student pitcher Christian Coombes and sophomore pitcher Gavin Hawkes corralling East Carolina. They combined for four innings and only allowed three hits and three walks and both had two strikeouts each. 

“Our bullpen was excellent. Coombes and Hawkes were very good,” Davis said following the game to GoBroncs.

Offensively, the Broncs only got on base six times with five hits and one walk. Those five hits belonged to five different players. 

A rough start

The Broncs experienced some deja vu in the final outing of the three-game set when they once again lost 7-0 to the Pirates. It was the first time since 2022 that the Broncs were swept in a series.

For the final game of the tough opening series, Davis gave the ball to freshman pitcher Jake Dorety, who had a quality collegiate start. He allowed five hits and four runs and had two strikeouts in three innings.

Once again, the Broncs’ bullpen kept the game within striking distance, one of the few positives of the loss.

Rider will get the opportunity to bounce back  when it heads to Johnson City, Tennessee, to face off against the East Tennessee State Tigers on Feb. 23-25.

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