Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Rider Broncs

Senior Alyssa Paul tore up the MAAC in conference play
  •  6 Heather Muscara OF Senior
  • 17 Alyssa Paul 3B Senior
  • 25 Sam Pugh C Senior
  • 11 Mary Rossi UT Junior
  • 4 Kehli Washington OF/2B Junior
  • 14 Ally Breeden C/3B Sophomore
  • 13 Lauren Davies OF Sophomore
  • 10 Amanda Irving 2B Sophomore
  • 22 Gina McCool SS Sophomore
  • 9 Madison Rittley OF Sophomore
  • 7 Montana Berg P/1B Freshman
  • 21 Emily Cottrell3B/C Freshman
  • 24 Samantha Judd OF Freshman
  • 99 Ali Meagher P Freshman
  • 2 Dana Sensi SS Freshman
  • 20 Kim Valdes C/INF Freshman
  • 12 Krista Morrone P Redshirt Freshman
After narrowly missing qualifying for the MAAC tournament in 2012, the Rider Broncs return a strong upper class in their quest to reach the top four. The big question mark surrounding the team will be their pitching staff, which will consist of three freshmen this season.

A trio of seniors with lots of playing experience will lead the Broncs in 2013. Third baseman Alyssa Paul had another solid campaign last year, finishing with a .270 batting average. She was second on the Broncs in RBIs and runs scored, but it was in conference play that she really raised the level of her game. Alyssa was second in the MAAC with a .404 average; 10 of her 18 RBIs were in these most important of games. Outfielder Heather Muscara (pictured left) hit .254 for the overall season, but also played her best softball in conference games, hitting .346. She improved her RBI and run production in helping the Broncs contend last season. Heather hit .364 as a freshmen, so a return to that lofty hitting is not out of the question her senior year. Catcher Sam Pugh enjoyed the best RBI output of her career in 2012, with 16. Half of those came in conference play. Defensively she has been solid behind the plate.

Kehli Washington (pictured left) is the only returning player in the junior class, but the speedy center fielder is a good one, being named to the All-MAAC team in 2012. Kehli is the Broncs' leadoff batter, hitting .297 last season while leading the team in stolen bases. She's another upperclassman who raised the level of her play in conference games last year, and she's part of a solid nucleus of leadership for Rider. The other junior on the team is Mary Rossi, a transfer from Mercer Community College, where she played shortstop and was a two time All Region 19 selection while hitting in the high .300s.

The sophomores are led by 2012 MAAC Rookie Of The Year Ally Breeden (pictured left). Ally stormed onto the scene immediately last season; in fact early on she was about the only offense Rider had. So Coach Carroll gave her a lot of responsibility, and Ally answered the bell with a .277 average and a team leading 27 RBIs. She also tied for the team lead with three home runs. Shortstop Gina McCool enjoyed a solid freshman season, finishing with a .251 average after starting every game. Second baseman Amanda Irving hit only .186 overall her first season, but was yet another Bronc who raised the level of her game in MAAC play, hitting 100 points better (.286) in conference games. Lauren Davies started 24 games in 2012, hitting .164 with seven runs and seven RBIs. Madison Rittley saw limited action as a freshman, but she did have a 3 for 3 game with four RBIs against Lafayette which showed some promise.

With the early departure of a number of players, including Lisa Blanton and pitcher Krysti Maronski, the Broncs will have a large freshman class this season. After enjoying the All-MAAC performance of Rachael Matreale in 2012, Rider will have to rely on three freshmen for their pitching in 2013. Actually one of the hurlers, Krista Morrone (pictured left), was at Rider last season, but sat out with a medical redshirt. No announcement came from the school, but I know that Krista suffered from the rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a senior in high school. I'm assuming she was still in recovery from this serious condition when she entered Rider in the fall of 2011. Krista is a top prospect, a dominant and powerful pitcher with a superb strikeouts to walks ratio during her days at Pallisades High School. She's the kind of pitcher who gets stronger the more she throws, with many double figure strikeout games. I see her as getting every chance early on to assume the number one pitching position. But the Broncs have a couple of other talented young pitchers on the staff. 5'10" Ali Meagher is another hard thrower who played with the New Jersey Elite. Montana Berg is out of Danville, CA and is a very good hitter as well. Also joining the Broncs as freshmen will be Dana Sensi, who can hit for average and power; Samantha Judd, a .400 hitter with American Pastime in California; Emily Cottrell, a third baseman from nearby Tom's River High School; and Kim Valdes, a first baseman who hit .488 at King's Academy in Jupiter, FL her senior season.

With all the great play in conference by key players last season, you can see that Coach Carroll knows how to motivate her team to peak at the right time. With the upperclassmen leading the way, the Broncs may field a very productive offense in 2013. The unknown quantity is how the young pitching staff will perform. The "preseason" portion of the schedule will be vital for the Broncs. It will allow the young pitching staff to get their feet wet, have their growing pains and attempt to develop as quickly as possible. Only time will tell if they will be ready for MAAC season. If one or two of them are, Rider has a good shot at qualifying for the postseason.

Next up: Niagara.

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