Rider Heading to Texas
LAWRENCEVILLE-The Rider University baseball team, champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the second time in three years, is heading to Austin, Texas to take part in the NCAA Baseball Austin Regional Tournament, it was announced Monday.
Rider (36-21) is the fourth seed in the four-team Regional and will play the Regional host, the Longhorns of Texas (46-11).
"When you think of college baseball, Texas is certainly one of the teams you think of," said Rider head coach Barry Davis. "They have a hall of fame coach; they've won national championships, so it is exciting."
The other two teams are #2 Rice University (38-21) and #3 University of Louisiana at Lafayette (37-20). "They are all very good," Davis said. "They are all going to be very talented. It is just a matter of us relaxing and going out there and not worrying too much about it. Take care of the things we can take care of."
Rider qualified for its tenth NCAA Regional in the last 27 years and second in three years by winning the MAAC Championship tournament in three straight games as the third seed. "We're on a high right now," Davis said. "We won the MAAC Title and we're going to the NCAA tournament. This will be a great experience for us."
In 2008 Rider traveled farther than any of the 64 NCAA tournament teams, to Fullerton, California, to take on the fifth ranked Titans of Cal-State Fullerton and the University of Virginia. "We're a little more experienced this time around," Davis said. "We're deeper on the mound and we play the game a little better. We're more solid in all areas. Our expectations are higher and we certainly hope we play well."
The 2010 Broncs are led by MAAC Tournament MVP A.J. Albee, MAAC and New Jersey Pitcher of the Year Mike Thomas, All-MAAC, All-New Jersey and MAAC All-Tournament team member Nick Wojnowski, MAAC All-Tournament pitcher Patrick Devlin and the New Jersey Rookie Pitcher of the Year Tyler Smith.
"Top to bottom, we have pretty high character kids on this team," Davis said, "and I'm very proud of them. This is a pretty tight group. They seem to like each other and they've played together this year. It is a good group of guys."
Albee, a junior second baseman, set Rider single season records this year for runs scored (62), runs batted in (60) and assists (177), while compiling 83 hits, five shy of the Rider single season record
Thomas, a junior lefty, is 9-2 this season with a 3.59 earned run average, striking out 94 batters in a Rider-record 97.2 innings pitched. Thomas enters the Regional with a career mark of 20-8, the fifth best career record ever at Rider.
Wojnowski, a senior outfielder, leads Rider with a .396 batting average and nine home runs and a .626 slugging percentage. His 37 walks this year is just one shy of the Rider single season record.
Devlin, a third-year sophomore lefty who was granted a medical red-shirt last season, improved to 7-3 on the season when he pitched eight innings in the MAAC Title Game, striking out seven while allowing just two runs.
Smith, a freshman lefty, set a Rider record with 30 appearances this year, compiling nine saves with a record of 6-4 and an earned run average of 2.77.
"I'll tell the team to try to enjoy this," Davis said, "and not to assume they will make it back (to the NCAAs). "We're going to be playing in front of 6,000 or 7,000 people and there won't be a lot of people cheering for us. So that will be fun."