By Andrew Smolar
Softball’s sluggish start to the 2023 season continued during the week of March 13.
After a game against in-state rival Monmouth was canceled on March 15, the Broncs dropped a pair of matchups on March 17 to Texas Tech University by a 9-1 score in a five-inning matchup and the University of North Dakota, 5-4. Rider followed that by losing 3-2 on March 18 against Bucknell, before bouncing back against the University of North Dakota with a 9-1 blowout victory.
The Broncs’ final game of the week on March 19 against the University of Maryland was canceled, as they finished the trip 1-3 and now sit at 5-13 for the season.
Despite the weekend losing record, freshman pitcher Jadeyn Merrill was the Broncs star of the week notching RBI’s in all three games she played in, including three in Rider’s 9-1 blowout over North Dakota. In the young season, she is batting a blistering .345 and has 11 RBI’s.
Bookended offense has been a strength the Broncs. While Rider has struggles to score consistently throughout games, but they have done a good job at scoring in the early and late innings.
In their March 17 loss to Texas Tech, the Broncs had a productive first inning offensively as they grabbed an early lead by drawing a leadoff walk, getting a double and then an RBI groundout.
The Broncs also showed resilience in their second game that day against North Dakota. Despite falling behind 4-0, they were able to score two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings before ultimately falling 5-4. In their dominant victory over North Dakota on March 18, the Broncs scored runs in every inning, one in the first and second, four in the third and three in the fourth.
“This may be the momentum we need to find consistency,” said Head Coach Davon Ortega.
While work remains to be more consistent throughout matches, they can take pride in knowing they have done a good job in the beginning and end of games.
Stopping the bleeding
Similar to its hitting, Rider’s pitching has been streaky at times. When it pitches well, it isn’t allowing anything; when the Broncs are struggling, they have problems recording outs.
This was evident in their loss to Texas Tech as the Raiders scored four runs in the first inning, three in the fourth and two in the fifth. The Broncs’ loss to North Dakota had a similar problem as of the five runs they allowed, four were in one inning. Stopping big innings has been an issue for the them as of late.
“We have to stay focused on improving on our weaknesses,” said Ortega.
Despite the sluggish 5-13 start to the season (5-13 record at this point), the Broncs will have a chance to right the ship with a pair of games against the University of Delaware on March 22, before Princeton makes the short drive to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, for a pair of matchups against Rider on March 29.
With all of their conference games still on the schedule, the opportunity is there for the Broncs to make a climb in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).