College Baseball-MAAC Tournament
Rider University 6, Manhattan College 4
TROY, NY-In a battle between the last two MAAC Champions, Rider defeated the top seed, Manhattan, in the opening round of the four-team, double elimination Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Tournament, hosted by Siena College at Joe Bruno Stadium.
"Winning the first game is huge," said Rider head coach Barry Davis. "It puts you in a position that you want to be in. We played fairly well."
Junior Tyler Smith (Westmont/Haddon Twp.) pitched a complete game, allowing six hits. "Tyler pitched great," Davis said.
A Preseason All-American as a closer who became a starter April 7, Smith pitched his sixth complete game, striking out four and walking three. "I still want to get the final out, even if I'm not the closer," said Smith, who improves to 5-5 on the season. "I wanted to close it out."
"We were close to taking him out after eight," Davis said. "He pitched so well."
Smith faced just 12 batters in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. "I got into a grove, pounding the zone, making good pitches," Smith said.
Freshman catcher Eric Strano (Robbinsville) hit an RBI single, his second RBI single of the game, to give Rider a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning.
"Strano did a great job behind the plate," Davis said, "and he's come up with some big hits lately. I think he's getting more confident and he was able to handle the pitches. Any time you can get your nine hitter to drive in a few runs it helps."
"I was a little nervous but it is a good feeling to have," said Strano. "My first time up I was able to put something in play hard and we got a run out of it. In the sixth inning I got ahead in the count and was fortunate to get the RBI."
Senior Brandon Cotten (Wiconisco, Pa./Williams Valley) followed Strano's RBI single with a two-run home run for a 6-2 lead.
"Cotten had a big hit today," Davis said of his two-time First Team All-MAAC centerfielder. "That was the difference in the game."
Joe Bruno Stadium is located (mostly) in Troy, NY, but the town line with North Greenbusch runs right through right field, so Cotten's home run not only left the park, it left town.
"I don't think I've ever hit a ball into the next town before," Cotten said. "That was exciting. I was struggling all day so to come through with the difference maker was nice."
On a 2-2 count, Cotten hit a change-up 350 feet to right centerfield. "I knew he wouldn't give me a fast ball," Cotten said. "I thought it would be a cutter. I was just looking for something I could drive."
Manhattan (29-25) cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning on a walk and three singles, and cut the lead to 6-4 with no outs in the ninth with a walk and home run. "It got a little shaky at the end," Davis said. "Tyler was a little tired."
Freshman Greg Fazio (Far Hills/Ridge) led off the fourth inning with a double, his second hit of the game, and scored on a botched squeeze play due to a throwing error by the Jasper catcher, giving Rider a 3-0 lead.
Junior Ian Lindsay (Oaklyn/Haddon Twp.) hit a double and scored on a single by junior Adam Wayman (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial) for a 2-0 Rider lead in the third inning. Lindsay, sophomore Jerry Mulderig (Langhorne, PA/Council Rock South) and Wayman all had two hits. Lindsay, the First Team All-MAAC designated hitter with a .342 batting average, now has 94 career hits.
Strano hit an RBI single in the second inning to give the Broncs a 1-0 lead.
Every starter collected a hit for Rider, as the Broncs banged out 14 hits. "That's good to know," Davis said. "Hopefully we can keep that going."
Rider (22-32), the fourth seed and 2010 MAAC champion, will now play Friday at 7pm against #2 Canisius. Canisius defeated #3 Fairfield 2-1 Thursday night.
"It is huge getting the first win," Cotten said. "We feel confident, no matter who we play. We've got Murph going."
Rider will send the MAAC Pitcher of the Year, sophomore Mike Murphy (Hamilton/Peddie), to the mound Friday.