Broncs win 18 of their last 20, second in MAAC

By Benjamin Shinault

On April 10, when Rider baseball’s  11-game winning streak came to a halt, the Broncs spent minimal time in low spirits. Since then, Rider got back on the victory track with a defeat of the Princeton Tigers on April 17 and a series sweep of the Maine Black Bears on April 19-21, the fourth series sweep for the Broncs this season. The Broncs were also able to take down the Seton Hall Pirates, 5-4 on April 23 to bring their winning streak to five games.

Battle of Route 206

Rider’s defeat of Princeton was the first since 2014. The two Division One squads met up at Clarke Field on April 17, which quickly became a painful day for both teams. Rider totaled only eight base hits but was hit by an excruciating 10 pitches, tying an NCAA single-game high. The Broncs also walked 12 times.

When the Broncs weren’t being pelted by baseballs, they were efficient bringing in runners on the base paths. One particularly productive Bronc was freshman outfielder Kyle Neri, who had three hits and five runs, one of which was a three-run shot over the left center field fence.

Graduate student first baseman Luke Lesch, who walked three times, extended his on-base streak to 32 games.

Pitching for Rider was reliable, with only six hits and three earned runs thanks to a great start from sophomore pitcher Chris Montone, who pitched five innings, striking out five, and sophomore pitcher Christian Aiello, who allowed one hit over his three innings and struck out seven of the nine batters he faced.

“Solid pitching from our starter Chris Montone, that’s the best he’s thrown all year,” Head Coach Barry Davis said to Rider Athletics. “Aiello was terrific as well.”

‘Give our guys credit’

The last time Rider lost a series of games was in March when the Broncs got swept by St. John’s. Since then, Rider has steadily improved all facets of its game, which was evident when  the team took a trip north to face the Black Bears for the first time since 2011.

Over the course of the three-game set, the Broncs scored 35 runs and maintained solid damage control, only allowing the Black Bears to score 14 runs. In game one, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader in innings, sophomore pitcher PJ Craig,  tossed five innings and only allowed three earned runs while striking out a career-high nine batters. 

In game two, pitching took a bigger hit than the day before, as eight runs made it across along with four walks and 13 base hits. The Broncs’ offense saved the day in game three, when their pitching was electric once more. Aiello and sophomore pitcher Clayton Poliey combined for nine innings, allowing only six hits, two earned runs, two walks and eight strikeouts. 

“We pitched well. Poliey and Aiello were outstanding,” Davis said. 

It’s easy for Rider’s pitching to overshadow what the Broncs’ offense has been able to do over the past couple of series. Against Maine, several Broncs had great performances, such as freshman infielder Joe Tiroly, who had seven RBIs over three games; senior catcher Brian Skettini, who had five RBIs, and Lesch, who had six RBIs. As a whole, Rider totaled over 10 runs twice in just this series alone, marking the 12th time it has done so this season.

“Give our guys credit. It was a long trip against a quality program,” Davis said. 

Building another streak

On April 23, Rider headed up north to South Orange, NJ to play some baseball against the Seton Hall Pirates.

The Broncs, riding yet another winning streak, laced up the cleats and headed out on to the dirt at Sheppard Field. Montone was given the start for Rider and pitched well going for six innings, allowing seven hits, four earned runs and struck out two. Pitching came to play as a whole for the single-game set, allowing just two more base hits after Montone exited after the sixth inning.

Hitting for the Broncs, was also good on the 23rd, especially off the bat of Neri who went three for five on the day, with one of those hits being a solo home run to right field. Other offensive contributions came from Tiroly who had a two RBI single in the first inning and a sophomore infielder AJ Labrusciano had an RBI single as well. 

With this tight, tough victory against Seton Hall, Rider has built another winning streak, now set at five and have won 18 of their 20 games, making them one of the hottest baseball programs in the nation.

Broncs will look to continue their hot streak on April 26 at 3 p.m. when they take on the Niagara Purple Eagles, the top team in the MAAC. The whole series will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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