Softball drops three of four

By Kadie Digiuseppe 

Rider softball traveled to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on March 1 for its second tournament of the season, where it competed in four games. 

The Broncs started off losing their first game of the tournament to Campbell 4-3 on March 1 and then again in their second game of the tournament against North Carolina. 

On March 2, Rider played against Lafayette, taking its only victory of the weekend 8-5 over the Leopards. To close out the end of the tournament, the Broncs matched up against their local rival, Rutgers, on March 3 but were defeated 10-2.

Pair of losses 

Rider started off its weekend against Campbell where it led the game 1-0 early after junior catcher Kristyn Gardner’s grounder to the shortstop brought in freshman catcher Kendall Reda-Fehsal to score the first run for Rider. 

Campbell’s bats woke up in the fifth inning and continued through the sixth, giving Rider’s defense a run for its money. 

Gardner kept her bat hot all game, including her home run in the sixth inning, bringing the game to a close score of 4-2 going into the last. 

Sophomore pitcher Jadeyn Merrill hit the last run in for the Broncs to left field, which allowed graduate student outfielder Amanda Cooper to score with two outs. After a strikeout, the game ended in Campbell’s favor. 

Sophomore pitcher Fallyn Stoeckel started for the Broncs and ended the game with three strikeouts. Cooper, Gardner and Reda-Fehsal led the team in hits. 

Later in the day, the Broncs played a tough game against UNC, where senior pitcher Anna-Marie Groskritz started her first game as a pitcher this season. 

Rider’s offense struggled the whole game against UNC and battled even harder to try and stop its offense from scoring. 

That didn’t stop sophomore outfielder Maddie Luedtke from getting a hit for the Broncs to center field; however, the Broncs struck out eight times during the game. 

The game ended with an unfortunate 8-0 defeat in five innings. 

“As a team, we didn’t give up even in the games that we went down early in the beginning,” said freshman outfielder Tristen Wren. 

Getting back on track

Rider woke up ready to get back in the win column on March 2 against Lafayette after its previous losses. 

Reda-Fehsal’s single to center field brought in senior pitcher and infielder Jessie Niegocki and Cooper to score the first two runs for Rider. Shortly after, Gardner singled up the middle that brought in Wren.

Sophomore utility Julia Harsche hopped on the hit train after reaching on a fielder’s choice and scored Reda-Fehsal to put the Broncs up 4-0 to end the first inning.

Rider’s offense stayed hot throughout the next inning where Reda-Fehsal’s outfield pop up gave enough time for Niegocki to tag up and reach home. 

Luedtke added another solo home run over the weekend for the Broncs during the third inning to center field which put Rider up 6-0 going into the fourth inning. 

Lafayette started to pick up its offense in the fourth inning scoring three runs and adding two more in the fifth inning to bring the score to 6-5 at the end of the fifth. 

Rider responded in the seventh inning by adding two more runs from Reda-Fehsal’s single up the middle to score Niegocki, and Cooper scoring on a fielding error ending the game with a final score of 8-5 in favor of the Broncs.

Niegocki, Reda-Fehsal and Gardner combined for nine hits for the Broncs with each of them having three of their own. Gardner went 3 for-3 at the plate and Reda-Fehsal had four RBI’s.

Not only did Niegocki have a great game at the plate but on the mound she faced 16 batters and retired nearly half of them. 

‘We kept fighting

Coming off of their big offensive win the day before, the Broncs faced Rutgers in their last game of the weekend. 

Rutgers offense came out with a bang and quickly jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first inning over Rider after some hard hit balls got through the Broncs defense including a two-run home run. 

After not scoring in the first inning Rider’s defense held Rutgers in the second inning to no runs and only one run in the third. 

Rider picked up one of its two runs in the third inning after Wren’s single scored freshman infielder Kiersten Buchanan. 

Freshman catcher Abby Cruz added another run for the Broncs after her solo home run in the fourth inning to center field. 

Rutgers put up two more runs in the fifth inning and Rider couldn’t connect its bats with the ball. The game ended in favor of Rutgers 10-2 after five innings. 

Wren does not seem to be worried about what the Broncs are capable of doing this season. “We have great goals for Nebraska and also the rest of the season,” she said. 

 “The pitchers did a great job and were able to work through some tough innings.” praised freshman outfielder Shelby Dyer. “Our team chemistry is starting to build which is really important to the success of our team for our current and future seasons.”

Head Coach Davon Ortega spoke about what the Broncs will look to do this upcoming weekend: “For this upcoming weekend we will need to look to be more clutch and productive with runners on base. We are getting a lot of runners on base but we’re stranding a lot of those runners,” she said. “We also need to continue sharpening up on our defense and defensive communication.”

On a positive note, Ortega said, “We faced tough teams who tested us through adversity but also helped to expose some of the areas that we still need to improve on. We learned a little bit more about ourselves as a team, which was a great next step as we continue to define our identity.”

The Broncs will travel to Omaha, Nebraska, to play in five games in the Connie Clausen Classic on March 9 at 1:15 p.m.

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