By Benjamin Shinault
DESPITE the Broncs participating in doubleheaders the last two weekends, Rider baseball still managed to make quick work of the Niagara Purple Eagles, scoring 31 runs over three games.
The series was filled with loud contact, electric pitching and complete domination all around the diamond. With the three wins over one of their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) rivals, the Broncs have scored 52 runs in their first six conference games. The Broncs then defeated Villanova on April 4 to move on to the finals of the Liberty Bell Classic, and will play at Citizens Bank Park on April 18.
‘He’s throwing strikes’
Fresh off a good series win against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, the Broncs opened up a new can of figurative worms and took on the Niagara Purple Eagles on March 31. Senior pitcher Dylan Heine was the man on the rubber for the Broncs looking to keep his excellent season rolling.
Heine’s final line at the conclusion of the series opening game was seven innings, four hits, no earned runs and seven strikeouts.
“He’s throwing strikes and pounding the zone, and as of right now, he’s kept us out using up a bunch of other guys,” said Head Coach Barry Davis.
Offensively, to the surprise of everyone, the Broncs started out slow. They scored their first run of the game in the sixth inning. Senior infielder John Volpe got the scoring started for the Broncs with a single to left field to even the score at one. Right after Volpe came junior catcher Brian Skettini, who followed up Volpe’s single with an RBI single of his own making it 2-1.
The scoring didn’t stop there, with senior catcher Socrates Bardatsos having a two-run single making it 4-1. Then, in the eighth inning, Skettini came up again and launched a ball over the fence, cementing the score at 5-1 and giving the Broncs the win in game one of the series.
‘Good things will happen’
With severe storms and rain in the forecast forcing Saturday’s game to be canceled, it was time for the Broncs to play yet another doubleheader. Graduate student pitcher Frank Doelling got the start for the Broncs in the opener.
Doelling’s final line was four innings pitched, four earned runs, three walks and seven hits. After Doelling departed, multiple bullpen arms such as freshman Christian Aiello and Gavin Hawkes, as well as senior Alec Sachais, all helped the Broncs stay within striking distance.
Down six runs through the first five innings of the ball game, Davis talked with the team. According to Volpe, Davis told them, “Don’t try to be someone you’re not, don’t try to go up there and hit a home run, just stay to yourself.”
Those wise, yet simple words from Davis must have clicked something deep within the Broncs because after that, Rider went off for seven runs.
It all began in the sixth when Bardatsos and senior infielder Jack Winsett both walked, allowing two runs to score making it 6-2. Freshman infielder Will Gallagher singled to right center which brought in two runs.
Volpe then came up later in the sixth, and hit a sacrifice fly which made it 6-5. After that, the Broncs weren’t done in the inning as they tied the game at six with an RBI double from senior outfielder Scott Shaw. After the double from Shaw, it was all Broncs after that as they took the second game of the series 13-6 with 13 unanswered runs.
‘We just want to keep winning’
After game one of the doubleheader took longer than anticipated, the start time was moved to 2:30 p.m. This pushed back time had absolutely no effect on the steaming hot Broncs offense, as the umpires for this game called it after seven innings, with Rider up by 10 runs and were ready to continue to pour it on.
Before the Broncs found the gas pedal, it started out shaky with sophomore Brian Young on the mound. In Young’s first inning, he allowed two walks, two doubles and two earned runs.
In spite of the left-hander’s tough inning, Young finished his day on the mound strong by going six innings, only allowing three more hits and striking out seven Purple Eagles.
After the Broncs trailed early in the second game of the doubleheader by a score of 2-0, they did not sit on the bench for long. In the bottom half of the first inning, they snagged the lead right back and went up two runs making the score 4-2.
One of the many big contributors from the huge rubber match victory was Skettini. Skettini had himself a day against the Purple Eagles, with three runs, two hits and two runs batted in with one of his hits being a home run to right center.
Not only did he have a productive day for the team, he also reached a personal milestone of 100 career hits.
After the game, Skettini described the milestone as “exciting,” saying, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize that I was that close to 100.”
Skettini wasn’t the only Bronc to achieve 100 career hits as Bardatsos also achieved the milestone as well.
With a couple more runs being scored later in the game, the umpires called the game early and the Broncs secured the series sweep with an astounding win, 13-3.
Bring on the Wildcats
After making quick work of the Purple Eagles of Niagara, the Broncs moved on to the semi-final of the Liberty Bell Classic series to face the Villanova Wildcats.
The Broncs already played the Wildcats this season and fared well taking two of the three games. Rider continued their dominance against the Wildcats as they won 11-7, advancing to the final and set to play at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows as their final score may portray. The Broncs trailed by five runs after the second inning due to the Wildcats exploding for seven runs in the second.
But thanks to a big day from Volpe, who accounted for three runs and a great diving play to turn a tough double play, the Broncs get to play in a big-league stadium on April 18 against Delaware.