Broncs MAAC Champions, Heading to NCAA Regional

Courtesy: Rider Sports Information
Release: May 24, 2008
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Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)

College Baseball-MAAC Championship

Siena College 9, Rider University 8 (10 innings)

Rider University 12, Siena College 5


TRENTON— With all due respect to Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, the Broncs would have much rather preferred to play just one on a beautiful day for a ball game at Waterfront Park. “It would have been nice to win it early, but we showed some resiliency and bounced back,” said tournament MVP Jamie Hayes.


“It was an emotional roller coaster today,” said junior Derek Caldwell (Allentown, Pa./Salisbury), who pitched the win in game two.


“It got ugly at times, but the overall effort was there and it was exciting,” said Rider head coach Barry Davis.


Rider (29-26) was 2-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship tournament, needing one win for its first MAAC Title and first baseball championship since winning the Northeast Conference in 1996.  Siena (30-26) was 2-1 in the tournament and needed to beat Rider twice Saturday.


After losing the first game in extra innings the Broncs came back to defeat the Saints and are the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Baseball Champions.  “I think it was deserved, the way we persevered,” Davis said. “It showed some character, the guys didn’t quit, and with a young team like this (only lose three to graduation) it could be something we can build on.”


Rider will now advance to one of 16 NCAA Regional tournaments. The NCAA will announce the Regional sites Sunday evening, and the field of 64 will be announced Monday afternoon. The Regionals begin May 30.


Junior James Hayes (Sunrise, Fla./Piper), the MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year, a first team All-MAAC Utility players and the New Jersey Division I Player of the Year, was named the tournament MVP. “He closed two games, played right field well, ran the bases well (four runs scored, four for four stolen bases) and hit the ball (six hits) He does it all,” Davis said.


Hayes collected his 200th career hit in just his third season, the fifth most ever by a Bronc. “I didn’t know it was my 200th until someone told me, but I’ll take it,” Hayes said.


In the second game, Caldwell pitched six and one-third innings for the win, allowing just two earned runs, and left the game leading 8-5. It was Caldwell’s second win of the season, and his first as a starter since the 2005 season. “It’s about time,” Caldwell said.


Caldwell was the key to the second game,” Davis said. “He’s been hot and cold all year, but today he got us to where we needed to get.”


Caldwell gave us a great effort,” Hayes said. “The arm felt good today,” said Caldwell, who won his final four starts of 2005 before missing 2006 and 2007 after ‘Tommy John’ surgery. “The offense backed me up today. I was hitting my spots with the fastball and my change up was moving.”


Junior Mike Petrowski (Hamilton Square, N.J./Steinert), who pitched six and one-third innings to win game one of the tournament Thursday night, made his first relief appearance of the season and pitched the final two and two-thirds innings, retiring all eight batters he faced for the save. “Mike told me he was okay to go,” Davis said. “He’s a winner. He wanted the ball.”


“It is a great adrenaline rush coming in out of the pen,” Petrowski said. “I always liked that part about it.”  Petrowski was a reliever in 22 games as a rookie and relieved his first three appearances in 2007 before becoming a starter and earning the team’s Most Valuable Pitcher award last year. “


Hayes was not available to pitch after pitching five innings over the first three games of the tournament.


Freshman Mason Heyne (Shrewsbury, Pa./Susquehannock), who missed two weeks with a sprained ankle and re-injured the ankle in the first game Saturday, hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to give Rider an 11-5 lead, his fifth and sixth RBI of the day, and was named to the all-tournament team. “The ankle is killing me,” Heyne said after receiving his all-tournament team trophy, “but I had to play through it. The Siena coach told me I looked like a 60 year old man running. It didn’t bother me swinging the bat, just running. I felt pretty good at the plate."


Junior Maurice Williams (Ocean, N.J./Monmouth Regional) hit a two-run single to give Rider an 8-4 lead in the sixth inning and an RBI double in the seventh for a 12-5 lead. “Mo had a big hit for us,” Davis said. “That opened the game up.”


Williams was one for five in the first game but had two hits and four RBI in the second game. “Let’s talk about the second game,” Williams said. “I was more relaxed and started hitting the ball harder. I left so many guys on base this weekend it felt good to finally drive some in.”


Senior Jon Leise (Woodbury, N.J./West Deptford) hit an RBI single to give Rider a 6-4 lead in the fifth inning. Leise was four for four in the final game, including his 100th career hit. “Here’s a kid who has been hurt for the better part of the year and really didn’t think he would be back for this tournament,” Davis said. “He worked hard to get back and I’m very proud of him.”


Junior Sean Olson (Vineland, N.J./St. Augustine Prep), a first team All-MAAC selection, singled and scored on a ground out by Williams to tie the score at 4-4, and freshman John Ralston (Annandale, Va./Paul VI) followed with an RBI single, his fourth hit of the day, to give Rider a 5-4 lead. Ralston doubled and scored when Leise hit an RBI double, his 100th career hit, to cut the lead to 4-3 in the fourth. “I knew that 100th has been coming for a while, but I didn’t know if I would ever get it,” Leise said.


Siena took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning with three runs on two hits, a walk, a sacrifice fly and two Rider errors.


Rider took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on two hits and an error on a sacrifice bunt by J. Hayes. J. Hayes collected his 200th career hit with a single in the seventh inning.


Olson hit a home run in the bottom of the first inning to give Rider a 1-0 lead and had four hits in the tournament along with being hit by a pitch four times. “This is the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” Olson said after receiving the championship trophy as one of Rider’s team captains. “Getting on base is getting on base. Getting an RBI is getting an RBI, it doesn’t matter how you do it. I can wear that (getting hit) all day. Our trainer Karen Cote is awesome. She brought me back from the injured elbow (on a pitch Friday night) and a lot of credit goes out to her.”


In the first game Saturday, Siena second baseman Moises Rivera hit a three-run, walk-off triple in the bottom of the tenth inning to force a game seven. Rivera hit his second home run of the game to tie the score at 5-5 in the seventh inning, and finished the game with eight RBI.


In the top of the tenth inning, sophomore Eric Woodrow (Hamilton, N.J./Hamilton West) was hit by a pitch, Hayes singled and Olson walked to load the bases and Heyne was hit by a pitch to score Hayes with the go-ahead run. Williams followed with an RBI single for an 8-6 Rider lead.


Heyne hit an RBI single to give Rider a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth inning.


Hayes, who had three of Rider’s 10 hits in the first game, moved from right field to the mound in the eighth inning with runners on second and third and struck out Rivera to end the inning. Hayes pitched one and one third innings, suffering the loss.


In the top of the seventh Hayes doubled, freshman Steve Galella (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial) singled and Olson and Heyne walked to give Rider a 5-2 lead.


Heyne hit Rider’s first home run of the tournament to take a 3-2 lead. The home run was Heyne’s sixth. “I just wanted to focus on hitting the ball hard,” Heyne said.


Freshman Patrick Devlin (Richboro, Pa./Council Rock North) started the first game Saturday and pitched six innings without a walk, allowing seven hits and struck out three, leaving the game with a 5-2 lead. Devlin pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning after allowing two hits and hitting a batter, and allowed just one hit through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.


The Championship is Rider’s first baseball title in the MAAC and the Broncs’ 10th baseball championship since 1984. Rider won three Northeast Conference titles (1996, 1995, 1994) and six East Coast Conference titles (1992, 1989, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1984)


Rider’s last NCAA Regional was 1994 in Miami. Rider competed in NCAA Regionals in 1994, 1992, 1991 (at large bid), 1989, 1987, 1986, 1985 and 1984.


Also named to the MAAC All-tournament team from Rider were sophomore Matt McCollum (Tabernacle, N.J./Shawnee) and junior Jimmer Kennedy (Levittown, Pa./Holy Ghost Prep).


On a beautiful day for a ball game, the Broncs played two. Ernie Banks would have been happy. With their first MAAC Title, the Broncs are happy too.



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