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Brian Young has saved his best stuff for the end of the season.
In particular, for Clover Stadium.
One week after the sophomore southpaw delivered the best performance of his career to help the Rider baseball team clinch the No. 2 seed at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, he went one better in pitching the Broncs to the championship round for the third consecutive season.
Young quieted one of the nation’s most potent offenses into the eight inning and second-seeded Rider beat top-seeded Fairfield, 6-3, on Friday afternoon to move within one win of a second NCAA Tournament trip in three seasons.
The Broncs (34-18) will have two chances to win one when the championship round gets underway on Saturday at noon. Rider will face one of Quinnipiac, Canisius or Fairfield — the surviving team of those three was determined last Friday night — for the league’s auto bid into the regionals.
“We just turn it on when it means more,” Young said. “Playoff Broncs play better.”
Facing an opponent who came into play with a .323 team average (4th nationally) and a staggering 91 home runs (31st nationally) in 51 games, Young allowed three runs — two earned — on seven hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter over 7.1 innings.
That Young’s effort came one day after Frank Doelling went seven in the opening victory over Quinnipiac was exactly what the doctor ordered to keep the bullpen fresh.
“Brian kept his focus,” skipper Dr. Barry Davis said. “There wasn’t a time where he wasn’t in control of himself. He didn’t make great pitches all the time, but overall he did a hell of a job.”
Rider’s offense, meanwhile, was patient and worked Fairfield starter Colin McVey — an All-MAAC selection who was 8-0 on the season — from the time leadoff man John Volpe stepped into the box and drew a walk. The Broncs got to McVey for a pair of runs in the second on an RBI single off the bat of Erich Hartmann and a Volpe sacrifice fly.
Rider chased McVey after 2.1 innings and 75 pitches once Luke Lesch (2-for-4) atoned for an error in the previous inning that allowed the Stags to score with an RBI single and Socrates Bardatsos followed with one of his own.
“We’ve been able to consistently put some things together,” Davis said. “We have only had that one explosive inning, though, and that is what it is going to take to win tomorrow.”
Jordan Erbe doubled and came in to score on wild pitch in the sixth for a 5-1 lead.
With that 5-1 lead, Young went back out for the eighth, but his 102nd and final pitch was launched out of the ballpark by MAAC Player of the Year Charlie Pagliarini for a two-run homer. The longball was Pagliarini’s 22nd and gave him 90 RBIs, the third most in the country.
Still, it was a tremendous outing from the Neptune native.
“It’s just having confidence as a staff,” Young said. “Coach (Mike) Petrowski has been calling the right pitches all year and making adjustments for us. It give me the confidence to make my pitches.”
Once Young exited, in came MAAC Reliever of the Year Danny Kirwin, who retired all five batters he faced for a five-out save, his NCAA-best 14th of the season.
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