College Baseball-MAAC Tournament Day Two
Rider University 3, Siena College 0
TRENTON—The Rider baseball team has reached the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship game for the fourth time in the last 10 years, defeating Siena Friday in the second round of the tournament, held at Waterfront Park. “It’s exciting,” said Rider head coach Barry Davis. “We haven’t accomplished the goal yet, but now we have an opportunity to get it.”
Rider will play Siena again at 1pm Saturday in the Title Game.
Rider junior Jimmer Kennedy (Levittown, Pa./Holy Ghost Prep) pitched eight innings, his longest outing of the season, allowing just three hits for his team-high seventh win of the season. “Jimmer did an outstanding job,” Davis said. “He went right at them, threw strikes. He was in control of the game.”
Kennedy (7-4), the Bob Koehler Memorial Award winner this year as the team’s Most Valuable Pitcher, did not allow a hit until there where two outs in the fourth inning and walked just one with two strike outs. Kennedy entered the game ranked 10th in the nation in least walks allowed (1.02) per nine innings. “He’s pitched well all year,” Davis said, “and this was one of his better efforts. An effort we needed in a game like this. To shutout a team that scored 24 runs yesterday, that’s a great effort.”
A Second Team All-New Jersey selection, Kennedy now owns a career record of 17-14, the 14th best ever at Rider. “Everything felt pretty good,” Kennedy said. “My arm stayed pretty fresh. What helped was I found my off-speed stuff and was able to mix it up a little better. Probably only about 60 percent of my pitches were fastballs today.”
Junior James Hayes (Sunrise, Fla,/Piper High), the MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year and the New Jersey Division I Player of the Year, entered the game in the ninth with no outs and the tying run at the plate. J. Hayes recorded a strikeout looking and began a 1-6-3 double play to end the game. “Jimmer deserves all of the credit,” Hayes said. “He got ahead, threw strikes, and shut down a team that scored 24 runs yesterday. He did a great job.”
The save was his second of the tournament, 11th of the season (tying his own team record) and the 26th of his career (already a Rider record). “I told Coach I was ready,” Hayes said, “and I’ll be ready tomorrow too if needed.”
As the starting right fielder, J. Hayes collected his 73rd hit of the season, second most in the MAAC, and stole another base to give him 35 for the season (Rider record is 40 set in 1967) and 68 for his career (Rider record is 80). “Hits and stolen bases are nice, but getting a save beats anything,” the multi-talented Hayes said. “I’ll take a save over anything else any day.”
Rider (28-25), the fourth seed, took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when senior Jon Leise (Woodbury, N.J./West Deptford) walked and scored on a wild pitch and sophomore first baseman Matt McCollum (Tabernacle, N.J./Shawnee) singled and scored on a single by J. Hayes.
Leise’s infield single with bases loaded in the third inning gave the Broncs a 3-0 lead. Leise has been hampered by a hamstring injury and played in just 38 games this year after playing all 49 last year. “Honestly, when I wasn’t able to play senior day (May 4) I didn’t think I would make it back,” said Leise, who enters the Championship Game with 98 career hits. “I did everything I could in the training room and I got back. Sitting, watching was tough. The hit today was something I’ve been dreaming about the last four years.”
McCollum collected his third hit of the tournament and made a sensational catch hanging into the first base dugout. “Before the game I noticed the flags blowing out to left-center, so I told myself any pop up on the right side has a chance to come back,” McCollum said. “So when I saw it go up I found the fence and saw I had a shot. I just stuck my glove in there where everyone was clearing out of the way and made the catch. It felt great right in front of all of our cheering fans.”
“Matty has ability,” Davis said, “and that’s something you can’t teach. Games like this, players sometimes rise to the occasion and he is doing that.”
Junior Sean Olson (Vineland, N.J./St. Augustine Prep), a First Team All-MAAC selection, was hit his first two times up Friday before hitting a double, his team-high 17th of the season. “It looks like I have two elbows on my left arm,” Olson said, “but now that we won it feels good. I wish I could say it felt better after the hit, but now I don’t feel anything but happy.”
Junior Maurice Williams (Ocean, N.J./Monmouth Regional) had two of Rider’s nine hits. Williams was Rider’s leading hitter during the regular season but went hitless in the first playoff game. “I felt a lot better today,” said Williams, who batted .345 during the regular season. “My teammates were helping me all game stay relaxed.”
Freshman Mason Heyne (Shrewsbury, Pa./Susquehannock), freshman Steve Galella (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial) and senior David Hayes (Sunrise, Fla./American Heritage) also collected hits for the Broncs.
The winner of the MAAC tournament advances to one of 16, four-team NCAA Regional Tournaments.
Rider is competing in its sixth MAAC baseball tournament and second in the last three years. Rider reached the MAAC Title game in 1999, 2001, 2002, and now in 2008. “This is so big, and to do it here, in front of our fans, this feels great,” Williams said. “This is unreal,” Olson said. “This is what we worked hard for all year.”
Rider defeated the top seed, Canisius, 4-3 Thursday night in the first round. In the elimination game Friday morning, the second seed, Manhattan (31-20), was eliminated by Canisius 16-7. Canisius (41-13), the top seed, lost to Siena (29-25), the third seed, Friday night for the right to play Rider in the Title Game Saturday at 1pm.