Rider University 4, Siena College 3 / 9 innings
Rider University 2, Siena College 1
LAWRENCEVILLE--The Rider University softball team celebrated senior day with a sweep of the Siena Saints on Saturday afternoon.
Rider (20-27-1, 7-3 MAAC) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference doubleheader 4-3 in extra innings and 2-1 at Herb and Joan Young Field.
"We work so hard all year," said head coach Tricia Carroll. "The 6 am practices, all of the little extra things that we do to get better and today, we showed that extra effort is working because we used all of that and then some to get the two wins today. I was pleased with everyone's composure and poise."
In the nightcap, behind a complete game five-hitter from senior Kelsey Krisch (Parker, Colo./Council Rock HS North), the Broncs completed the sweep. Krisch recorded six strikeouts for her second win of the season.
"Getting seven innings out of Kelsey was awesome," said Carroll. "Siena is a very good hitting team. We were looking for three to four innings from her and then to bring Rachael (Matreale) in but we stayed with her because of her poise and composure."
"I knew I had to come out and do my best for the team," said Krisch. "With my parents here and a big crowd for senior day, I had to keep my composure and do my best."
Senior Lucy Higgins (Westminster, Mass./Notre Dame Academy) hit a two-out RBI double in the second inning to break a scoreless tie, scoring junior Heather Muscara (North Bellmore, N.Y./Mepham) who had walked.
"This was an extra special day," Higgins said. "Besides senior day, Siena came in at or near the top of the MAAC standings and we needed to win the games."
Higgins hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Muscara who led off the fourth inning with a double as Rider went ahead 2-0. Higgins and Muscara each had two of Rider's five hits in game two and Muscara is now on a nine-game hitting streak.
"My key was to swing early and get the bat on the ball," Higgins said. "I've been struggling and it felt really good to help the team out and get those hits for them. This was an important day even though we still have six conference regular season games left on the road."
"Getting early runs was important," Krisch said. "That allows you to throw some pitches and have the other team put the ball in play and let your defense do the work. I know both the offense and defense both had my back."
Rider made all 71 plays on defense without an error in the doubleheader.
"Our defense was unbelievable," Carroll said. "Because Siena couldn't extend their innings, we left their big bats in the on-deck circle several times and when they did bat, for the most part, it was with the bases empty."
Shannon Jones hit her 13th home run of the season (and second of the day), a solo shot to deep center field that brought Siena (18-24, 6-4 MAAC) to within 2-1 in the sixth inning but that was as close as the Saints would get.
In the opener, freshman Allysen Breeden (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) hit a two-out infield single to second base, scoring junior Alyssa Paul (Toms River/Toms River HS East) as the Broncs pulled out a 4-3 win in nine innings. Breeden, a three-time MAAC Rookie of the Week honoree, had three hits in the opening game.
Rider jumped out to a 2-0, first inning lead on a two-out, two-run single by Muscara after the inning was extended by a Siena error.
Siena's Jones homered to right field, cutting the Bronc lead to 2-1 in the fourth inning.
The Saints went ahead 3-2 in the sixth inning when, after pitching around and walking Jones, Jessika-Jo Sandrini hit her 12th home run of the season, clearing the left field fence.
Down to the final out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rider junior Sam Pugh (Elkton, Md./Elkton) hit a single to left field, scoring sophomore Kehli Washington (Lulea, Sweden/New Rochelle) who had reached on an infield single, sending the game into extra innings. Washington had three hits in game one for the Broncs with Pugh adding two.
"Those were two very exciting games," Carroll said. "Ally just got enough to get the winning hit and Alyssa (Paul's) hit was huge. The fight that we showed today was awesome. It makes us believe that what we are doing is the right stuff."
Senior Rachael Matreale (Williamstown), a four-time MAAC Pitcher of the Week, went all nine innings to pick up her 17th win of the season and recorded six strikeouts.
Rider is now 4-5 in one-run games this season and the Broncs improved to 4-3 in extra innings in 2012. Game one was Rider's first win in 19 games this season when trailing after six innings.
This is the third season in a row that one of the games with Siena has gone into extra innings.
"I have no idea why we have had such battles with Siena," Carroll said. "It's just one of those things. We know they are going to give us their best and it was up to us to respond today and we did."
Rider has won 18 of the 30 games in the all-time series.
Last season in Loudonville, New York, Siena swept the Broncs, winning 2-1 in nine innings in the opener on a walk off walk and the Saints won the nightcap 9-3.
In 2010, Rider and Siena split two games in Lawrenceville with the Broncs winning 7-1 before losing 6-4 in extra innings. In 2009 in Loudonville, Rider again won the opener (7-1) before losing 6-4 in extra innings in the nightcap. The Broncs swept the Saints in 2008, winning 5-4 and 6-2 in Lawrenceville.
Between games, Rider honored its senior class, Matreale, Higgins, Krisch and Samantha Mayer (Neptune).
"It is going to be hard to let this senior class go," said Carroll. You spend four years with them and another year or so recruiting them so everyone is emotionally invested and that makes it difficult."
"I knew I had to let my emotions go and do my best for the team," Krisch added about the senior day festivities. "I just really focused on doing what I had to do so we could get the sweep and hopefully qualify for the playoffs."
"I like having senior day with a few games left on the schedule," Carroll said. "It is still an emotional day but it takes a little of the emotion out of the equation and allows us to focus on playing and winning the games."
Rider is currently tied for second place with Marist in the MAAC standings at 7-3. Fairfield and Siena are tied for fourth at 6-4. Iona leads the MAAC with a 9-3 record. The top four teams advance to the conference playoffs May 10-12 in Poughkeepsie, New York. Rider last qualified for the playoffs in 2006.
Rider travels to Fairfield for a conference doubleheader on Sunday, the first of six MAAC road games to finish the regular season.
"We can hit, we can play defense and we can pitch," Carroll said. "We just need to continue to believe it. Today's sweep is going to make a statement and we need to realize that by playing well, our opponents are going to be coming after us with their best effort and we have to match that as we hopefully head toward a playoff run. We aren't going to sneak up on anyone and we need to have the courage to leave it on the field."