Rider University 13, Rutgers University 5
LAWRENCEVILLE—Some ball players might feel slighted or maybe even a bit embarrassed to bat ninth, last, in the batting order. Not Matt McCollum. “Personally, I love it,” said McCollum, who entered the game with 84 career hits and now has 88. “I get to see a lot of good pitches. At this level a lot of pitchers don’t think the nine hitter can hit, so I’ll see some inside pitches like I did today.”
Junior Matt McCollum (Tabernacle, N.J./Shawnee) led the Broncs (6-9) to victory over Rutgers Wednesday with four hits, including a double and five RBI. McCollum’s RBI double in the third inning gave the Broncs an 8-0 lead. “Matty had a good day,” said Rider head coach Barry Davis. “It’s nice to have a guy hitting in the nine hole swinging like that.”
Rider scored six runs on five hits in the third inning. “We put some hits together and were able to take advantage of that,” Davis said. “Everyone stepped up and got some big hits with guys in scoring position,” McCollum said.
The last time Rider defeated Rutgers was April 14, 2005 (7-6 at Rider), with the Scarlet Knights winning the last three meetings. Rider lost 4-3 at Rutgers last year. “You want to do well in state,” Davis said. “This is a good win for us.”
“They’re a good team,” McCollum said. “It’s nice to beat them. They play in a prestigious (Big East) Conference. When you say New Jersey a lot of people think of Rutgers, so it is nice to beat them.”
As a team the Broncs collected 16 hits and turned four double plays. “It was a good performance,” Davis said. “Our defense was very strong today with the double plays. We didn’t make an error and got 16 hits.”
Rider took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when sophomore John Ralston (Annandale, Va./Paul VI) doubled and scored on an RBI single by junior Darron Lattomus (Remington, Va./West Springfield) and McCollum followed with a sacrifice fly. Ralston had two hits and two RBI. “Ralston is hitting the ball pretty good,” Davis said. With the two hits Wednesday Ralston raised his team-high batting average to .417.
Rider senior Derek Caldwell (Allentown, Pa./Salisbury) pitched five innings and struck out six, allowing two runs for his first victory since the 2008 MAAC Tournament Championship game. “Derek had a better performance today,” Davis said. “He threw strikes.”
“I felt good today,” Caldwell said. “I was throwing strikes. I was getting my curve ball over for strikes for the first time in a couple of years. It’s nice to have more than one pitch to throw for strikes.”
Senior James Hayes (Sunrise, Fla./Piper) walked and stole second base to lead off the game. The steal was Hayes’ 80th, tying the Rider career record set in 2003 by Carl Loadenthal.
Also for Rider, sophomore Steve Galella (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial) had three hits, including a home run and three RBI, and senior Maurice Williams (Tinton Falls, N.J./Monmouth Regional) had two hits.
For Rutgers (9-11), Jarred Jimenez had three hits, a home run shy of the cycle, and two RBI. “Rutgers is a good team,” Caldwell said. “We came close to beating them last year and we realized we could beat them, so it was nice to do it this year.”
The game was Rider’s first at home this season after 14 away games. “It was great to play at home,” McCollum said. “We were on the road for so long, we’re getting tired of riding the bus all of the time. It’s nice to be home.”
The four-hit game was McCollum’s best since collecting five hits against Temple in 2006. “I felt really good today,” McCollum said. “I’ve been working on staying closed in my stance, and even though I hit all the balls to right field today I was trying to take it up the middle. I was fortunate enough to get some inside fast balls today and was able to capitalize on them.”
Rider hosts Iona Friday and Saturday in a three-game Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference series. And if Matt McCollum is batting ninth, he won’t mind a bit.