Rider Home Sunday against Manhattan
Games moved back one day due to threat of rain
LAWRENCEVILLE--Sweet 16. At least the Rider University softball team is hoping for a sweet 16 stretch of MAAC games that will lead to a playoff berth.
Sixteen, that is how many games comprise the 2012 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule, which begins with a doubleheader on Sunday at 1pm against the Manhattan College Jaspers at Herb and Joan Young Field on the Lawrenceville campus.
The games were originally scheduled for Saturday but were moved back 24 hours due to the threat of rain late Friday night into Saturday.
"It sounds funny but we do all of the work (off-season, pre-season, non-conference) to get to this point, the start of conference schedule," head coach Tricia Carroll said. "We are at home and we need to get off to a good start in MAAC play. With a 16-game schedule to qualify for the four-team conference playoffs, every play is magnified and every pitch is important. We worked hard and we have prepared ourselves for this part of the season. I'm glad we open at home and this is a feisty group that has the potential to be very successful."
Rider returned 11 letterwinners from the 2011 squad however four rookies have cracked the starting lineup and that combination of youth and veteran leadership has allowed the Broncs to match their win total from 2011 with a little more than half of the season left to go.
Rider (9-18-1) is led by freshman Allysen Breeden (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown), a two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week honoree, who is batting a team-high .313 and leads Rider in hits (25) RBI (17) and doubles (five).
Senior Rachael Matreale (Williamstown), a two-time MAAC Pitcher of the Week honoree, leads the pitching staff, having earned eight of Rider's nine wins while recording a team-high 96 strikeouts in 105 innings pitched.
After a rough opening weekend of the season, Matreale is 8-4 in her last 13 appearances with a 1.52 earned run average, holding opponents to a .180 batting average in those games.
Matreale, a Second Team All-MAAC honoree as a junior, is 1-3 all-time against Manhattan in conference play, recording 18 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings pitched.
Sunday marks Rider's second home date of the season with the Broncs splitting two games against Drexel on March 6.
Rider enters play having won two of three games and four out of its last seven.
Manhattan (1-18), which has played its first 19 games of the season away from home, is led by Kate Bowen (.357 average) who also leads the team with 20 hits, two doubles, two home runs, 10 runs scored and 11 RBI. Bowen is also the ace of the Jasper pitching staffl with a 1-5 record and a 4.68 earned run average.
Amanda Paxon is also batting over .300 for Manhattan (.308) with a slugging percentage of (.436).
Manhattan has lost 13 in a row and the Jaspers have been out-scored 130-40. The Jaspers lone win this season came against Lafayette at the Rebel Spring Games (1-0) on March 12.
Rider has wins this season over George Mason, Drexel, Nebraska Omaha, Fairleigh Dickinson, Wagner, Saint Joseph's, Columbia and the Broncs have two wins over Army.
The Broncs and Jaspers have split the 28 meetings in the all-time series. Rider and Manhattan met last season in Riverdale, New York when the Jaspers swept the two-game set, 1-0 and 6-3 on April 30, 2011, despite the Broncs out-hitting the Jaspers in both games. Rider and Manhattan split two games in Lawrenceville in 2010 with the Broncs winning 7-5 after losing 12-0 in the opener. In 2009, the teams split two MAAC games in Riverdale. In 2008 and 2007, the teams also split their two conference games. Manhattan swept Rider in 2006 and 2005 and the teams split in 2004.
In conference play after the Manhattan games is a doubleheader against Saint Peter's at home (April 7), Marist at home (April 15), at Iona (April 21), Siena at home for senior day (April 28), with the Broncs finishing with six straight on the road (at Fairfield - April 29), at Niagara (May 5) and at Canisius (May 6).
The MAAC championship is hosted by Marist College May 10-12.
For those unable to make the game on Sunday, GameViewer (LiveStats) will be available free of charge on GoBroncs.com and you can also track the action on twitter by following @RiderAthletics.
Help the Broncs celebrate the start of a MAAC Sweet 16 as they host the Manhattan Jaspers on Sunday, April 1 at 1pm.