If the mercury is rising and the trees are budding, it must mean that Rider baseball is near the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings again. In what has virtually become an annual rite, the Broncs are powering through their schedule, and are perched in second place in the MAAC with a 9-3 record, and 20-12 overall, heading into their April 25 doubleheader against Fairfield.
The Tuesday, April 26, game, also against the Stags, has been designated a Code Cranberry game, an initiative designed to express a unified show of support among varsity athletes at Rider University. On designated Code Cranberry dates, all varsity student-athletes are asked to come out to the contest, wearing their Code Cranberry T-shirt, and cheer on their fellow student-athletes in an effort to show that while they compete in different sports, they are all part of one team – Rider Athletics.
All students, faculty and staff are also invited to attend the 3 p.m. game at Sonny Pittaro Field, where they can also enjoy free hamburgers and hot dogs while they watch the Broncs position themselves for the postseason.
Like any solid program, Rider is thriving on production and leadership from its upperclassmen, such as junior Brandon Cotten, and senior stalwarts Steve Galella, A.J. Albee and Mason Heyne. One of the team’s big bats so far, however, has been freshman Nick Crescenzo, who is leading the Broncs in batting with a .351 average after picking up four of Rider’s 14 hits in their 9-6 win over George Mason University on April 20.
“He puts the ball in play,” said head coach Barry Davis of Crescenzo. “When he makes contact and puts the ball on the ground, he’s going to get on base because he runs so well.”
The athletic Crescenzo was actually a star quarterback at Hammonton (N.J.) High School, where he led his team to the South Jersey Group III football title in his final game, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown run and recording an interception to seal the game on its final play. Fortunately for Davis and the Broncs, Crescenzo had signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at Rider just weeks earlier.
Though he cited his modest 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame as one reason he chose the diamond over the gridiron, Crescenzo has been big for the Broncs, reeling in three consecutive MAAC Rookie of the Week Awards over one stretch this season.
“It’s great to see him recognized,” Davis said of the Business major, who also ranks among the conference’s top 10 in batting average. “He’s improving and his best days are ahead of him.”
Sophomore lefty Tyler Smith has also emerged as a force coming out of the bullpen, collecting four saves during the week of April 4 to 10 to earn MAAC Pitcher of the Week honors. The 6-foot-2 Smith has successfully closed 10 games for the Broncs this year.