By Logan VanDine
AFTER a bleak start, Rider softball’s luck turned around, winning all three of their games against Monmouth and Manhattan, bringing their win streak up to five. The Broncs defeated the Hawks 11-7 on April 13, then beat the Jaspers 1-0 and 4-1 in a doubleheader on April 16, moving their record to 11-22 on the season.
‘We made some progress today’
In an offensive slugfest, the Broncs extended their win streak to three, defeating the Monmouth Hawks 11-7 on April 13.
The Broncs started the scoring in the bottom of the second courtesy of an RBI single by junior infielder Jessica Niegocki followed by a second run that was driven in by freshman outfielder Julia Harsche, who drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring in a run.
The Broncs then took advantage of five Hawk errors en route to scoring 11 runs total, giving Rider an 11-7 victory. All nine starters scored at least one run.
“For the second game in a row, I liked our use of the small ball to jump start our offense. We made some progress today by finishing and closing the game after getting a lead,” Head Coach Davon Ortega said.
A near no-hitter
In a tightly-contested pitching duel, Niegocki got the better of the Manhattan Jaspers, nearly pitching a no-hitter to lift the Broncs to a 1-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader on April 16.
The game was held scoreless through the fourth inning until the Broncs broke the ice when graduate student infielder Gianna Epps laced an RBI single that made the score 1-0.
The main story of the game was Niegocki as she was just as good in this start as she was previously on April 4.
The junior pitched her second straight complete game, striking out 10 over seven innings and flirted with a no-hitter until it was broken up in the seventh on a Manhattan leadoff double.
Niegocki went on to retire the next three batters to secure the win.
“She was rested, she was fresh and she’s been adjusting to her game, so she understands how to step up her game a notch, and I think she did that today,” said Ortega.
Niegocki, who picked up her fourth win of the season, gave her input on her outing, and offered kudos to the defense behind her.
“My defense was phenomenal behind me tracking down every flyball that was out there, and I am still striving for that no-hit,” Niegocki said.
‘Starting to hit our stride’
In the second game, the Broncs used both their bats and dominant starting pitching to sweep their doubleheader against Manhattan.
Sophomore pitcher Kathryn Schmierer was on the mound for the Broncs and was greeted rudely in the top of the first, giving up a solo home run that gave the Jaspers an early 1-0 lead.
But Rider struck back in the bottom of the first, as sophomore infielder Oliva Burroughs sailed a two-run home run out of Herb and Joan Young Field that gave the Broncs a 2-1 lead.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit hard. I never go up thinking to hit a home run, I just got out there looking to hit something hard, and luckily it was served over the middle,” Burroughs said.
Looking to add insurance, the Broncs supplied two more runs in the bottom of the third and made the final score 4-1.
“We are finally starting to hit our stride, we were kind of late bloomers,” said Ortega. “It took a while for us to get together as a team … but now we are starting to see our consistency.”
The Broncs will look to make it six straight when they travel to West Long Branch, New Jersey, to take on Monmouth on April 19 at 3 p.m.