Rider University 3, University of Maine 2
LAWRENCEVILLE-The Rider University baseball team won its fourth game in a row, defeating Maine 3-2 on Friday afternoon at Sonny Pittaro Field.
"You hold a team to two runs, you should win just about every time," said head coach Barry Davis. "Maine's pitcher was good and we had a few plays that we didn't execute and as it turned out, every little thing counted. It was a nice win and a good win."
Senior John Ralston (Annandale, Va./Paul VI) doubled in the seventh inning, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Karl Johnston (Hamilton/Peddie) to break a 2-2 tie in the first of a four-game series.
Rider senior A.J. Albee (Ashley, Pa./Hanover Area) gave Rider (8-7) a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI double and had an RBI single in the third inning to give the Broncs a 2-0 lead.
"We need to be better situational hitters," Albee said. "We had some chances that we didn't take advantage of. Our pitching really kept us in the ball game."
Albee, junior Brandon Cotten (Wiconisco, Pa./Williams Valley) and sophomore Ian Lindsay (Oaklyn/Haddon Twp.) each had two of Rider's eight hits with Cotten picking up career hit 100 with his single to left field in the first inning.
Senior Mike Thomas (Forest Hill, Md./Fallston) went six and one-third innings with three strikeouts before leaving with the score tied at two after 125 pitches.
"I felt pretty good today," said Thomas. "Maine is a good team. They don't really take big hacks. They stay inside the ball, they chance their approach with two strikes so it is hard to get a strikeout when you need it. It was just one of those games and I just tried to do my job and keep us in the game."
"That was about the limit for Mike," Davis said. "You don't want to go much further than that. He threw ok."
"Anytime we have Mike (Thomas) on the mound, we feel we have a good chance to win the game," Albee said. "We didn't really score for him today but we know that he will give us 100 percent on the mound. He puts his heart out there for us."
Sophomore pitcher Chris Taylor (Sterling, Va./Dominion) relieved Thomas and pitched the Broncs out of the seventh inning jam, stranding the Maine runner on third by getting a ground out to shortstop with the infield up and a fly out to centerfield. Taylor is now 2-1 on the season with the win, the third of his career.
"It felt good to stop Maine's rally," Taylor said. "My pitches were working well today and Mike (Thomas) pitched well and I wanted to help get him out of the jam in the seventh."
"Taylor did a good job and got us out of the inning," said Davis.
Sophomore Tyler Smith (Westmont/Haddon Twp.) pitched the final inning and two-thirds, striking out three for the save, his fourth of the year and the 13th of his career.
"That's how it works," said Smith. "Taylor picked up Thomas and I picked up Taylor. You win 3-2 games when that happens. You bail each other out, that is how the game is won."
"We've got to separate ourselves so we don't tax our pitching staff," Davis added. "That was a draining ball game. Saturday we have to come out ready to go. Maine is good, they have good pitching and we need to take better advantage of the opportunities that we do get. Mike (Thomas) would have a guy get on and now the tying run is at the plate every time."
"I felt like I had better command today than in my previous starts," Thomas added. "My arm felt good and I'm happy that we got the win. Maine is a pretty good team and winning 3-2, it makes the whole pitching staff feel really good."
"Our bullpen has been doing better lately," Taylor added. "We had some trouble getting from the sixth inning to the ninth inning and now it seems a little easier for us to close the door."
"You have to have the mentality to stay composed when you come into a tough situation," Smith said. "I know people are going to get hits off me so when it happens, you can't get flustered. The calmer you are, the better your next pitch is going to be."
Rider is now 1-1 against Maine. The Broncs lost to the Black Bears in the NCAA Northeast Regional 12-6 in 1984.
"It is a great first win against a team that is very competitive," Smith added. "It is a great way to start it off because we beat their best pitcher with our best pitcher and it puts us in strong position to look to win the series. But we are going to take things one game at a time and we are focused on the first game tomorrow."
Rider and Maine play a doubleheader on Saturday with each game scheduled for seven innings. The first pitch is set for noon.