Editor’s note: The Lincoln Parish over the next three editions will preview the three teams joining Louisiana Tech in the NCAA Ruston Baseball Regional that is slated to begin on Friday. Today the LPJ previews the Rider University Broncs, who will be the opening round opponent for Tech in a game scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Friday at “The Love Shack.”
By T. Scott Boatright
It’s been a while since Rider University, from Lawrence Township in New Jersey, has competed in the NCAA Baseball Championship Tournament.
The last time it happened was in 2010. But the Broncos are no strangers to NCAA postseason play. Rider will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the 14th time in program history and 11th time in the “Regional Era” (since 1975).
Rider advanced through district play in 1967 to reach the College World Series.
“It’s exciting wherever you’re going,” said Rider head coach Barry Davis in a RU athletics department release. “I think it’s a new spot, a new place we’ve never been, and it’ll be a great experience. I don’t think anybody on our team has been to Louisiana and, if they have, it wasn’t to play Louisiana Tech. We’re excited and looking forward to the people and the fans. It’s another exciting experience for our players, our coaches and our staff. We’re excited to go to Louisiana Tech.”
The Broncs earned the trip to Ruston by dominating the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tourney as Rider went 5-0, beginning with a best-of-three series sweep over sixth-seeded Niagara to move on to the double-elimination championship round.
Rider then rallied from behind to beat second-seeded Monmouth and fourth-seeded Canisius, before using a five home run performance in a 7-2 MAAC Championship victory over top-seeded Fairfield.
Jordan Erbe led the Broncs with a 7-for-13 performance at the plate with two runs and three RBIs in the championship round to earn tournament MVP honors.
Joe Papeo finished the game against Canisius on the mound and started the game against Fairfield to earn a pair of victories for the Broncs.
Rider (23-16) didn’t play any non-league games this season although NCAA Tournament participants East Carolina and North Dakota State were both originally on the schedule.
“I don’t like sending a less experienced or not-as-talented team down to a Power-5 to play, but this team was capable of that,” Davis told The (New Jersey) Trentonian earlier this week. “Those are games that would have prepared us for something like this. It will be kind of like we are starting the season like we normally do in February or early March against those type of teams.”
While the Broncs have tasted success in NCAA postseason play in the past, the last time Rider made the NCAA field, it lost to Texas and Rice by a combined score of 30-1.
“You want to go down and show you belong and that it’s not a fluke,” Davis told The Trentonian of the upcoming Ruston Regional. “I always look at it as a reward, too. Just go down there and relax, go play and do the best we can. … If we pitch and we catch it when they hit it to us and don’t give them free bases, we’re going to be in the game. If we don’t pitch well, we walk guys and we kick it around, we’ll struggle.”
“We’re hot right now. There’s no reason why we can’t go down there and play well.”
The MAAC received a second bid to the NCAA Tournament after Fairfield (37-3) earned an at-large despite its loss in the league championship. Fairfield opens against the home team at the Arizona State (32-20) Regional, with No. 2 overall seed Texas (42-15) and Southern (20-28) rounding out the field.