Sunday, May 28, 2023
Broncs defeat top-seeded Fairfield
by Rider Sports Information
The Rider University baseball team claimed its second MAAC Championship in the last three seasons, defeating top-seeded Fairfield, 18-4. The Broncs earned the conference's automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament at 35-19 on the season.
Rider advances to the NCAA Regionals for the 15th time and first since 2021. In his 19th season at Rider and his 34th as a collegiate head coach, this is the fourth time Dr. Barry Davis has led a Broncs team to NCAAs. Previous appearances were in 2008, 2010 and 2021.
The Broncs jumped out to an early lead in game one. John Volpe '23 led off the game with a single to center. With two outs and two on thanks to a walk by senior Brian Skettini, Brendan O'Donnell '23 hit a bomb to left field that not only cleared the fence, but left the stadium to put Rider up 3-0.
The Stags responded with a run in the second and both pitchers began to settle in. The Stags would eventually add a run in the fifth to cut the lead to 3-2.
O'Donnell led off the sixth with a single. Two batters later, Jack Winsett '23 turned on a pitch and sent it down the right field line for an RBI double. With two outs, sophomore Erich Hartmann singled home Winsett to make it 5-2.
The Stags had the response in the bottom half of the inning, using a three-run home run as part of a four-run inning to take the lead, 6-5.
The lead would be short lived for Fairfield. Luke Lesch '23 hit a one-out single. O'Donnell followed with his second home run of the game into the short porch in right field, putting Rider back on top, 7-6.
The Broncs had the Stags down to their final strike in the ninth, but a two-out, two-strike single tied the game, and a wild pitch brought in the winning run for Fairfield in game one with a score of 8-7.
In game two, it was once again the Broncs striking first. O'Donnell led off the second with a walk. Socrates Bardatsos '23 then doubled to put runners on second and third. O'Donnell came in to score on a sacrifice fly to open the scoring. Senior Jordan Erbe followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Following a pitching change, Hartmann delivered an RBI single. A walk drawn by Volpe loaded the bases; a run would score on a fielder's choice and a Stags error brought in another to make it 4-0 Broncs after two.
"I just told them, 'Hey, it's happened before, and we can do it again,'" says Davis. "Just be you and stay positive. It's a new game, and once we got the lead, it really calmed everybody down."
In the fifth, the Stags offense got on the board with a three-run inning, highlighted by a two-run home run to trim the Rider lead to just one, but the Broncs had an immediate answer.
Scott Shaw '23 led off the bottom of the fifth with a home run. After two consecutive outs, the Broncs caught fire. O'Donnell was hit by a pitch, Bardatsos then walked. Winsett, Erbe, Hartmann and Volpe each singled home a run to bring Shaw up for the second time in the inning and for the second time in the inning, Shaw cleared the fence for a home run. When the final out was finally recorded, Rider scored eight in the inning and extended the lead to 12-3.
"Never had a game like that in my life," says Shaw. "It couldn't have happened at a better time."
The Broncs added on in the sixth, seventh and eighth. Winsett drew a one-out walk in the sixth, then Erbe doubled down the left-field line. With two away, Volpe went the other way with a two-run double down the right-field line. In the seventh, Skettini led off the inning with a single, then Lesch powered a home run to right. In the eighth, Erbe led off the inning with a single. With two outs, Shaw hit his third home run of the game, putting Rider up 18-3. The Stags would get a run in the ninth to produce the final score.
Volpe, Lesch and Shaw were named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team with Shaw earning Tournament MVP honors.
The Broncs will face Coastal Carolina University in the NCAA Conway Regional June 2-5.