Broncs Begin February 18
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ—With remnants of the last two snow falls still covering Sonny Pittaro Field, the Rider University baseball team is preparing for the 2014 season opener in three weeks.
“I don’t think anybody has enough time to prepare,” said head coach Barry Davis, the 2013 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, “but there are teams in our league who are going to play before us. This forces you to get ready.”
The 2014 baseball season begins Tuesday, February 18 with an afternoon game at the University of Maryland. “It will be different starting in the middle of the week,” Davis said. “They are a good team and it will be a big game for us. The goal is to prepare our guys to play.”
The 2014 schedule features three-game series’ with eight of the other 10 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rivals, with the new, six-team format for the MAAC Championships, held May 21-25 in Lakewood, NJ.
Rider returns to Wilson, NC to play a three game neutral site series with Temple February 21-23. “We had a good experience down there last year and we had the opportunity to go again so we are looking forward to it,” Davis said
The Broncs play a four-game, three-team round-robin tournament at Liberty’s brand new state-of-the-art ballpark with Ball State in Lynchburg, VA. “Liberty has made a real commitment to their baseball program,” Davis said, “and it showed the last couple of years. Ball State coach Rich Maloney will have his team ready. This will be a great challenge for us.”
Rider will also play non-conference three-game series’ at Delaware, Western Carolina and NJIT to prepare for MAAC play.
With an 11-team conference, each team will play eight MAAC series. Rider does not play either Canisius, a perennial tournament team, or Fairfield, who is expected to be picked in the top half of the conference this year.
“I’m not sure if it was random or geographical, the way it was decided who we don’t play this year,” Davis said, “but I believe it will rotate so we will play those two next year. If we are fortunate enough to make the playoffs this year I would expect to see those two teams then.”
For the first time the MAAC Championship, held at FirstEnergy Park, home of the Class A Blue Claws of the Philadelphia Phillies organization, will be a six-team tournament.
“More than ever it is more important to finish first or second,” Davis said. “In the past with four teams the seeding didn’t really matter. Now with the bye and the potential day off, finishing first or second will be rewarded in the post-season tournament. The fact that it is close will be great for our fans.”
And by the third week of May the snow in New Jersey should be gone.