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Rider University 8, Niagara University 4
Clinch Playoff Spot, Collect 30th Win
NIAGARA FALLS, NY—The Rider baseball team achieved two of its preseason goals on Sunday when the Broncs defeated Niagara in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game.
With the victory, the first place Broncs (30-17, 14-4 MAAC) clinch a playoff spot in the four-team MAAC Championship Tournament they are hosting and reached the 30-win mark for the third time in the last four years and just the eighth time ever.
“I don’t think we’ve ever clinched this early,” said Rider head coach Barry Davis. “It’s a good feeling to know you’re going to be in the tournament. We’ve played well enough to get us there. We’ve played a fairly demanding (non-conference) schedule so to get 30 wins is an accomplishment and a good sign for this young team. Those were two of our goals, two big ones, and we met them both.”
Sophomore Kurt Sowa (Bensalem, PA/Fr. Judge) pitched six innings and allowed just two hits and struck out four. “He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been,” Davis said of Sowa, who is among the national leaders in victories. “He wasn’t at his best today but found a way to win. He was good enough.”
Sowa (9-1, 5-0 vs. MAAC teams) was 14th in the nation in wins heading into the weekend.
Junior Nick Crescenzo (Hammonton, NJ/Hammonton) and freshman James Locklear (Hamilton, NJ/Steinert) each had three of Rider’s 13 hits. Sophomore Justin Thomas (Richboro, PA/Council Rock South) and sophomore Mike Parsons (Liverpool, NY) each added two hits.
Rider scored four runs in the third inning on three hits, two Niagara errors and a hit batsman to take a 4-2 lead. A two-run single by Crescenzo gave Rider a 3-2 lead. “Another two-out, two-strike hit,” Davis said. “We had a few of them this series. That was a big hit.”
Crescenzo singled, stole second and scored on an error after Thomas singled to give Rider a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning.
Thomas hit an RBI double in the seventh inning to give Rider a 6-3 lead. Thomas had seven hits in the three-game Niagara series sweep. “Thomas was consistent this weekend and gave us some good at bats,” Davis said.
An RBI double by Locklear in the seventh inning gave Rider a 7-3 lead. “Lock had a big hit there for us,” Davis said. “We were able to separate ourselves there.” The Broncs scored three runs in the seventh inning on three hits to take an 8-3 lead.
Niagara (16-31, 9-12 MAAC) took a first inning lead for the third time in the three-game series with a walk, a wild pitch and a single. Sowa got a strikeout looking with bases loaded to get out of the first inning jam. “We were fortunate there,” Davis said. “They could have put up three or four runs in the first.”
Rider won two of three games with Niagara last year in Lawrenceville. The last time Rider came here to Western New York the Broncs also won all three games.
Rider and Niagara have now met 48 times since the series began in 1997 with Rider winning 33, including eight of the last nine.
Rider travels to Temple Wednesday.