LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ – After finishing the 2017 regular season with a three-game sweep of Youngstown State, the Rider University baseball team enters the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship as the No. 6 seed. The Broncs, who are currently 23-26-1 and ended up 12-12 in conference play, take a four-game winning streak into the postseason.
No. 6 Rider begins the quest for their third MAAC title on Wednesday, May 24, against third-seeded Canisius. First pitch against the Griffs is scheduled for noon in Niagara Falls at Sal Maglie Stadium.
By virtue of Canisius defeating Niagara, Fairfield beating Quinnipiac, Monmouth and Iona splitting a doubleheader and Marist and Siena splitting a doubleheader all on Friday of the final week of the regular season the Broncs clinched a berth into the MAAC Tournament. With Manhattan defeating Saint Peter's over the weekend, the Jaspers locked up the No. 5 seed.
During the regular season, Canisius swept Rider at home. The Bronc bats have been hot as of late and Head Coach Barry Davis hopes that continues.
“We are excited for the opportunity to compete in the MAAC Tournament,” Davis said. “After missing out last year, it is nice to be a part of it. As the sixth seed, we have a tough road ahead. Canisius will be a tremendous challenge for our team. I am hopeful we can match their intensity and skill level. It is a must for us to have a chance at all.”
Offensively, Rider has four everyday starters hitting over .280 this season led by senior Mike Volaski (Oxnard, CA/Oxnard/Ventura Community College) checking in at .297. Last week, Volaski recorded his 100th career hit with the Broncs joining Lee Lipinski (Glen Arm, MD/Calvert Hall) and Tyler Kaiser (Moorestown, NJ/Moorestown) who also reached the milestone this season. Volaski leads the team with 12 doubles and is tied for third with 24 RBIs. Kaiser has had a breakout campaign, hitting at a .293 clip with six home runs, 34 RBIs and 26 runs scored. He is one of three players on the team with 48 or more hits this spring. Kaiser also leads the team in home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Lipinski and freshman leadoff hitter Kyle Johnson (Jackson, NJ/Jackson Memorial) are the other two Broncs batting over .280. Lipinski is hitting .290 with nine doubles, five home runs and 29 RBIs, while Johnson checks in at .284 with a team-high 55 hits and 13 stolen bases.
Defensively, Richie Tecco (Drexel Hill, PA/Monsignor Bonner) has played solid as shortstop for the Broncs all year. Kaiser has made the transition to left field in 2017 and he leads the team with seven outfield assists. Behind the plate, Lipinski has gunned 20 runners attempting to steal.
Junior southpaw Nick Margevicius (North Royalton, OH/Saint Ignatius) has been the team's ace this year. He is 6-3 with a 2.56 ERA, while striking out 80 hitters in 81 innings of work. He leads the team in ERA, strikeouts, wins, innings pitched and WHIP. Freshmen John Yocum (Easton, PA/Freedom) and Pete Soporowski (South Amboy, NJ/Sayreville War Memorial) have emerged as weekend starters as well for the Broncs. Yocum is second on the team in wins (4) and strikeouts (59), while working 62.2 innings, while Soporowski has gone 2-4 in 62.1 innings of work. Yocum has twice been tabbed as the MAAC Rookie of the Week this season (he is the only pitcher in the league to do so) and Soporowski has earned the award once.
Out of the bullpen, Mike Diorio (Middletown, NJ/Middletown HS South), Josh Sharik (Ewing, NJ/Plumstead Christian School) , Andrew Tumbelty (Westampton, NJ/Rancocas Valley) , Jordan Silverman (Holland, PA/Council Rock HS South) and Paul Sparano (Ewing, NJ/Ewing) have all been effective.
For more information on Rider baseball and for updates throughout the MAAC Tournament follow @RiderUBaseball on Twitter.