Rider University 8, Siena College 5
Rider University 2, Siena College 1
LAWRENCEVILLE- On May 5, 1862, a young, hard-working and resilient army of largely Mexican Indian soldiers defeated the invading French forces of Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla. The David vs. Goliath story has been celebrated ever since.
On Saturday, a young, hard-working and resilient Rider baseball team defeated the invading Saints of Siena College in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference doubleheader, moving the Broncs closer to their goal of making the MAAC playoffs.
Happy Cinco de Mayo.
"We overcame some mistakes today, but this is a resilient group," said Rider head coach Barry Davis. "We make mistakes because we are young, but we were able to bounce back. This entire season we've worked hard and have had plenty of opportunities to quit but haven't."
Senior Brandon Cotten (Wiconisco, Pa./Williams Valley), who missed the last seven games with a foot injury and has not played since April 20, had five hits in the doubleheader with three RBI and another outstanding diving catch in centerfield.
"It felt good to be back," said Cotten, who now has 197 career hits, 11th most ever at Rider. "It was not much fun watching, even though the team did pretty well without me."
"Well, he's rested," Davis joked about his All-MAAC outfielder. "I thought Brandon played smart today and made yet another outstanding catch.
"That catch is pretty much routine for me," Cotten said. "Hitting is always tough to do but my defense comes natural."
"He's a good player and he gave us some well-needed punch," Davis said.
In the first game, sophomore Mike Murphy (Hamilton/Peddie) pitched seven and two thirds innings, allowing three earned runs, improving to 5-3 on the season. "Mike was solid, again," Davis said.
Murphy is 4-0 in his last five starts.
Rider broke open a 4-3 game with four runs in the sixth inning on five hits, the biggest hit a two-run single by junior Adam Wayman (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial).
Wayman and sophomore Jerry Mulderig (Langhorne, PA/Council Rock South) each had two hits in the first game.
Freshman pitcher Zach Mawson (Magnolia, DE/Caesar Rodney) recorded the final four outs for the save, his fifth. "Zach is settling into that role nicely," Davis said.
In the second game freshman Eric Strano (Robbinsville) hit a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Rider (18-27, 11-9 MAAC) a 2-1 lead. "Huge hit," Davis said of his rookie catcher. "Aren't many hits bigger than that. He's coming around after struggling a bit early."
"I was looking for a fastball, knowing with bases loaded he had to pitch to me," Strano said. "He gave me a fastball a little bit outside so I just took it that way. It wasn't hit that hard but good enough to get the job done."
Strano had two hits in the doubleheader. "He does some good things for us," Davis said of Strano.
Junior Tyler Smith (Westmont/Haddon Twp.) pitched a complete game (seven innings), striking out six, for his fourth win of the season.
A Preseason All-American closer who earned All-East honors out of the bullpen last year, Smith improved to 3-2 as a starter. "Today he closed his own game," Davis said. "His pitch count was still in the 90s and he pitched well enough to leave in there. He has been one of our best guys and that is who you lean on in these situations."
Siena (17-31, 7-10 MAAC) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run.
Junior Ian Lindsay (Oaklyn/Haddon Twp.) missed the last few games with a concussion but came back to collect two of Rider's five hits in the second game. "Having Lindsay back gave us a lift," Davis said. Lindsay entered the day as Rider's leading hitter, batting .315.
Rider has now won six of its last seven games. "Today's sweep was huge," Cotten said. "We can come out and play hard tomorrow without as much pressure, and with a win tomorrow, anything goes."
Rider lost two of three at Siena last year. Rider and Siena have now met 51 times since the series began in 1995 with Rider now holding a 26-25 advantage in the series. Rider won all three games against Siena the last time the Saints traveled to Lawrenceville (2010) and all three at Siena in 2009.
The third game of the series is Sunday at 12 noon. "Tomorrow is a big game," Davis said.
The significance of the Battle of Puebla has long been forgotten and Cinco de Mayo is now more or less a way for Mexican-Americans to showcase their ethnic identity, very similar to how Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
It is now also a reason to celebrate a MAAC doubleheader sweep of Siena.
Happy Cinco de Mayo.