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Two-Out Rally in the Eighth Propels Rider Past Manhattan

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Courtesy: Claire Leger

NIAGARA FALLS, NY – Lee Lipinski (Glen Arm, MD/Calvert Hall) went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a pair of RBIs to lead the sixth-seeded Rider University baseball team past No. 5 seed Manhattan on Thursday night in an elimination game as part of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Baseball Championships at Sal Maglie Stadium. The Broncs (24-27-1) won their first MAAC Tournament game since 2013, while the Jaspers (18-35) see their season come to an end.

Rider opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the fifth thanks to a solo home run from Lipinski and an RBI double off the bat of Jake Bender (Ellicott City, MD/Marriotts Ridge). Manhattan would get on the board and take their first lead of the game with a three-run outburst in the seventh. During the frame, the Jaspers saw a player hit by a pitch, back-to-back doubles and an RBI single all with two outs to steal the momentum.

Rider would answer in the eighth with a two-out rally of their own. Riley Mihalik (Churchville, PA/Chestnut Hill Academy) got things going with a double to deep right center with two strikes. After a pinch runner came on and a walk, senior outfielder Tyler Kaiser (Moorestown, NJ/Moorestown) tied the game at three with a run-scoring single to right. Lipinski would then step into the box and put an exclamation point on his day with an RBI single to center to bring the eventual game-winning run racing home.

Offensively Lipinski was the catalyst, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored. Four other Broncs had one hit apiece. In the top of the first, Mihalik was robbed as Manhattan centerfielder Brandon Valls made a full-extension diving catch on a ball in the gap.  

On the mound, freshman John Yocum (Easton, PA/Freedom) got the start and tossed 6.2 solid innings in a no-decision. He scattered eight hits, allowed three earned runs, tied a season-high with eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter. In relief, junior Paul Sparano (Ewing, NJ/Ewing) gave the Broncs 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to earn his third win of the season. Sparano gave up two hits and struck out a pair (both in the eighth) without walking a batter. In total, Sparano and Yocum combined for 10 strikeouts without issuing a free pass.

“That was a big inning,” Rider Head Coach Barry Davis said about the top of fourth after Yocum stranded a runner on third following a leadoff triple. “At that point, there was no score in the game. Yocum was sharp and he kept the ball down. He was outstanding, that's as good as he's pitched all year. He's a big-game pitcher. He's intense, he looked good and he looked like a guy you can count on.”

“Bender's double was a big hit for him,” Davis added. “He's been up and down, but that was a big hit and it was nice that Dalton was able to score from first. Lee and Tyler getting their hits with two strikes on them were big. You feel good when they're up, you feel like they are going to give you a good at-bat and they understand the situation. They didn't try to do too much with it.”  

- Yocum retired the side in order the first and second innings. Before surrendering a two-run double in the seventh, Yocum held the Jaspers to 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The eight strikeouts matched a career-high and it marked the fourth time this year he has fanned eight hitters. It was the second time in 2017 Yocum has recorded an 8-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Both of those games came against MAAC opponents. It was the second straight quality start for Yocum and his fifth of the season.
- Sparano retired the side in order in the eighth. From the eighth through the middle of the ninth he set down four straight batters. It marked his sixth appearance out of the bullpen with two or more strikeouts this year.
- Lipinski had two or more RBIs for the second day in a row. He has two or more RBIs in 11 games this spring.
- Kaiser's two-out RBI was his 13th of the season. He leads the team with 35 RBIs.  
- Bender's two-out, run-scoring double was his 11th RBI with two outs this spring. It was also his eighth two-bagger of 2017. He currently has 95 career hits.  
- Lipinski's homer in the fifth tied him for the team lead with six this spring. It was also the first Bronc hit of the day.
- Nick Margevicius earned First Team All-MAAC honors on Tuesday evening as announced by the league office. He earned conference-wide distinction for the second year in a row and he was the only Bronc to be named to an All-MAAC team in 2017.
- Rider placed nine student-athletes on the 2017 MAAC Baseball All-Academic Team. It marked the fifth straight year that the Broncs saw nine or more players recognized for their work in the classroom.

- Lipinski threw out his 22nd runner attempting to steal this season in the bottom of the fourth and later he threw out his 23rd to end the seventh.
- Mihalik's two-out double in the eighth was the first hit for the Broncs since the fifth inning.
- Rider's five hits came in two innings (two in the fifth and three in the eighth). All three hits in the eighth came with two outs.
- Rider is 4-2 in one-run games this season. The Broncs have won back-to-back one-run games against MAAC opponents.
- Lipinski leads the team with 14 two-out RBIs, including the game-winner on Thursday.

No. 6 seed Rider will face No. 4 seed Iona in another elimination game on Friday, May 26, at 10:00 am at Sal Maglie Stadium. The Gaels took two of three from Rider this season in New Rochelle.