Broncs Open This Weekend
Play 3-Game Series at Norfolk State
NORFOLK, VIRGINIA--The 2013 Rider baseball season begins with a pair of weekend trips to Virginia, taking on Norfolk State February 24-25 and Radford March 1-3.
"The two weekends in Virginia will give us an early indication of what we need to work on," said head coach Barry Davis, who has taken his last five teams to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Tournament, winning two Titles. "It'll be good to get going."
The Broncs are picked to finish third in the nine-team MAAC this year, after a fourth place finish last season.
"Every year you want to be in the tournament, so last year was acceptable," Davis said of his 2012 season, when he had three freshmen and two or three sophomores in the line-up, and turned around a 9-22 start to win 13 of their final 23 games to reach the MAAC playoffs. "We actually did better in the tournament last year than we did the year before when we won 33 games."
Rider hosts the MAAC tournament this year at Mercer County's Arm & Hammer Field. "It can be a real home field advantage if you win the first game and now you play at night with a large crowd," Davis said. "That could build momentum. But getting into the tournament, no matter where it is, is the most important thing."
The MAAC Tournament, however, is three months and 55 games away. The season begins Sunday with a 1pm doubleheader followed by a 12 noon single game Monday.
"We played Norfolk State last year and they beat us the first game before we bounced back," Davis said. The Broncs won the series three games to one.
Norfolk began this year winning one of three games with Navy. "They already have three games under their belt so they'll have a little bit of experience on us," Davis said.
Rider returns two preseason All-MAAC selections, senior outfielder Ian Lindsay (Oaklyn, NJ/Haddon Township) and senior third baseman Adam Wayman (Wilkes-Barre, PA/G.A.R. Memorial), along with the 2012 MAAC Pitcher of the Year, junior Mike Murphy (Hamilton, NJ/Peddie) and senior pitcher Tyler Smith (Westmont, N.J./Haddon Township).
Wayman enters the season with 166 career hits, 34th most ever at Rider. Last year he was a Second Team All-New Jersey selection, starting 55 games and leading the team with 63 hits and 36 runs scored, along with 13 doubles. "He'll bat third and play third," Davis said. "He's been pretty consistent since he's been here and is a good leader. His experience is certainly going to pay off. Not many situations he hasn't experienced."
He also had 30 RBI and was named to the MAAC All-Tournament team.
Lindsay was a First Team All-MAAC selection last year as a designated hitter but is expected to play leftfield this year. "We need him to be as good or better this year," Davis said. "It gives us more options in other areas if he plays leftfield."
Lindsay led the 2012 team with a .339 batting average, including a .375 average against MAAC pitchers. "He's one of our best hitters and will leadoff. We want him to get as many at bats as possible."
Murphy made 14 starts on the mound for the 2012 Broncs in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and led the team in innings pitched and wins. "He's our Number Two guy, although, in the MAAC series he'll pitch the third game," Davis said. "I always looked at the third game as the swing game, the Stopper from being swept or the Finisher for a sweep."
The Rider Athlete of the Year, Murphy went 5-1 in eight starts with a 3.49 ERA in conference play.
Smith was a 2012 Preseason All-American as a closer but made the switch to starter last year and finished the season with six complete games in eight starts. "He's our Game One guy," Davis said. "He'll probably give us six-seven-eight (innings) every time out. Since he's a starter this year since Day One, opposed to switching from closer mid-year last season, he has more of an opportunity to be the best he can be."
Smith finished 5-5 with three saves and an earned run average of 3.72.
"I have no reason not to think that Murphy and Smith are going to be good," Davis said.
The following weekend Rider travels to Radford. "Radford plays in the Big South, which is a good league," Davis said. "They'll be very competitive."
Rider will host Lafayette in Flemington March 5 and host Lehigh on Rider's Sonny Pittaro Field March 8.
Spring Break will be spent in the Carolinas, taking on South Carolina and Campbell, while playing four neutral site games in Wilson, NC against Saint Bonaventure. "South Carolina is one of the best in the country," Davis said. "It will be similar to last year when we faced ninth ranked Virginia and their pitcher who was the second player in the draft. The key is for the players to embrace the atmosphere, playing in front of large crowds against great competition. Just play."
Other key returnees include junior outfielders Jerry Mulderig (Langhorne, Pa./Council Rock HS South) and Nick Crescenzo (Hammonton, N.J./Hammonton) and sophomore middle infielders Greg Fazio (Far Hills, N.J./Ridge) and Mike Parsons (Liverpool, N.Y./Liverpool).
Mulderig was named the team's Most Improved Player in 2012, making 36 starts in the outfield and 10 appearances on the mound in relief. Mulderig drove in 30 runs on the year, second most on the team, and batted .316 with a team-high 20 runs in 23 conference games. "He'll bat fifth or sixth in the order and play right field or DH," Davis said. "He'll also pitch in late the innings in many games."
Crescenzo was the MAAC Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American in 2011, and collected 54 more hits last year to give him 109 in just two years. "He is motivated to get back to his freshman year production," Davis said. "He can steal bases and get into scoring position."
The speedy junior is expected to play centerfield or right field this year.
Fazio (second base) and Parsons (shortstop) made up the youngest double play combination in the MAAC last year and combined for 93 hits, 60 runs scored and 281 assists.
"I think Parsons will be steady at shortstop for a few years," Davis said. "Fazio has shortstop-strength arm strength with above average range."
Other key returnees include sophomore first baseman Justin Thomas (Richboro, Pa./Council Rock HS South), sophomore catcher Eric Strano (Robbinsville, N.J./Robbinsville), junior Ken Kremer and sophomore pitchers Kurt Sowa (Bensalem, Pa./Father Judge), Eric Thomas (Dallastown, Pa./Dallastown Area) and Zach Mawson (Magnolia, Del./Caesar Rodney).
Justin Thomas was named to the 2012 NJCBA All-Rookie team, making 30 starts, and was third on the team in batting (.299 average) and second on team in homeruns. "He'll bat fourth for us and play first base, and can play third or DH if needed," Davis said. "He's slotted for the cleanup spot. He has a chance to be something special at the plate. If you look at his numbers last year he was pretty good."
Strano started 38 games behind the plate as a rookie and his .391 on base percentage was fourth best on the team. "He's a horse who can catch a lot of ball games," Davis said. "He can throw and block the ball. At the plate he'll bat eighth or second. He's not a bad runner and puts the ball in play."
Sowa was named to the 2012 NJCBA All-Rookie team, making 14 starts on the mound and is expected to be Rider's third starter this year. "You need a guy to pitch the second game (seven innings) who can give you a solid seven innings, and I think Sowa can do that," Davis said. "Last year he was pretty consistent and he's a big key this year."
His five victories last year was tied for second best on the team.
Eric Thomas is expected to be Rider's fourth starter this year. "He'll be the fourth game starter," Davis said. "The mid-week starter, unless we need him to be a weekend reliever. We'll do whatever we need to do to win the weekend (MAAC) games.
The 6'4" lefty made 20 appearances in relief last year and opponents batted just .176 against him, the best on the Rider squad. "He can throw three pitches for strikes and has one of the best curve balls on the team." Davis said.
Mawson is expected to be the closer this year.
Kremer is expected to see some time as the Designated Hitter this year.
"Locklear can play right field if Mulderig is the DH," Davis said.
"Lipinski is really good at first base," Davis said, "Probably the best we have, defensively, and he's not a bad hitter. He can be a back-up catcher as well. He comes from a good high school program, he's used to winning."
"Donnelly may be the most athletic person we have on the team." Davis said of his outfielder/pitcher. "He can run a little bit, he throws well. He's strong and has ability."