Broncs Shuffle off to Buffalo
LAWRENCEVILLE--The late Al Davis, of the National Football League Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders coined the phrase 'just win, baby' and that is the philosophy that the Rider University softball team will be following this weekend as the Broncs shuffle off to Buffalo for two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games each at Niagara and Canisius.
Just win, baby.
With four games left on the 2012 schedule, Rider (20-29-1, 7-5 MAAC) finds itself in fifth place in the conference standings, behind 9-5 Canisius for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Sure, there are scenarios that would allow the Broncs to go 3-1 or even 2-2 and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 season but to keep everything in their control, all they have to do is win.
Just win, baby.
Rider is led by three-time MAAC Rookie of the Week, freshman Allysen Breeden (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) who is batting a team-high .304 (45/148), with eight doubles, three home runs, 27 RBI and 13 runs scored while starting all 50 games.
In the circle, senior Rachael Matreale (Williamstown) has 17 of Rider's 20 wins this season with a 2.04 earned run average.
Matreale has 195 strikeouts in 202 innings and ranks second all-time with 571 Ks in her Bronc career.
Matreale is 27th nationally in shutouts with eight and is 71st in wins, 92nd in earned run average and 100th in strikeouts.
After batting as low as .102 in March, junior Heather Muscara (North Bellmore, N.Y./Mepham) has raised her average over 180 points (to .286), with 26 of her 32 hits this season coming in the past four weeks while hitting .491 in April.
Last season, Niagara won 12-0 and 12-4 in Lawrenceville. Niagara blanked Rider twice in 2010 (8-0, 12-0) at Niagara and the Purple Eagles have won 17 of the 32 games in the series. The teams split in Lawrenceville in 2009 with Niagara winning 5-1 in the opener and Rider 3-1 in the nightcap.
Canisius and Rider split two games in 2011 with the Broncs winning the opener 4-3 and the Golden Griffins taking the second game 13-3. Canisius has won 23 of the 36 games in the series that started in 1991. The Golden Griffins swept Rider in Buffalo in 2010 and the teams split a MAAC doubleheader in Lawrenceville in 2009.
The top four teams in the MAAC standings at the end of play on Sunday advance to the conference playoffs May 10-12, hosted by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York with the winner earning a trip to the NCAA Championship tournament.
The NCAA Regionals are May 17-20, the Super Regionals are May 24-27 and the Women's College World Series is May 31-June 6 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Defending MAAC tournament champion Iona currently leads the conference at 11-3 and has two games left against Marist on Sunday. Rider split with the Gaels in New Rochelle earlier this season.
The Red Foxes (8-4) and Fairfield (8-4) are tied for second place with Marist facing Siena (Saturday) and Iona on Sunday and the Stags play Manhattan (Saturday) and Siena (Sunday).
Rider split two games with Marist and were swept by Fairfield.
Canisius (9-5) has two games left, against Rider on Sunday and the Broncs face Niagara (5-9) on Saturday in a two-game set before seeing if they can be golden against the Golden Griffins on Sunday.
Siena (6-6) is in sixth place and can still make some noise by winning four straight against Marist and Fairfield which would bring at least two teams to a 10-6 record with the mathematical possibility that five teams (vying for the final three spots) could finish tied for second place with six losses in the standings. Rider swept the Saints earlier this season.
If Rider wins all four games on the Western New York swing, they will avoid that log jam in the standings and finish 11-5.
So the easiest thing for the Rider University softball team to do this weekend?
As Al Davis used to say, "Just win, baby."