Garden State to be well-represented at NCAA tournament
Two of the state's college baseball teams are heading to Omaha for the NCAA tournament this weekend.
New Jersey Institute of Technology made history with its first-ever NCAA Division 1 tournament appearance.
The NJIT Highlanders were 2-0 in the America East Tournament when bad weather forced the tournament to end early. As the only unbeaten team remaining, NJIT was awarded the conference's automatic bid.
"You know we would have liked to really earn it. We did earn it; we played our hardest and we really turned our season around, we did everything we had to do," said Ryan Fischer, a pitcher for NJIT.
NJIT started the season 3-12 but has won 18 of its last 22 games while riding a program-best nine-game win streak. The Highlanders will face top-seeded Arkansas in the Fayetteville regional.
"We're just playing with some Jersey grit and even if all the odds are stacked against us, we just do whatever we can to put ourselves in the best position to win," said Luke Longo, a catcher with the team.
Rider University is also on the road to Omaha. The Broncs punched their ticket by going 5-0 in the MAAC tournament and upsetting top-seeded Fairfield to clinch the title for the third time in program history.
"Nobody picked us to win. We were projected a seven-seed at the start of the year, so we play with a chip on our shoulders -- we're going to have to grind it out, we grinded it out in the MAAC tournament and we're going to grind it out this weekend," Joe Papeo said, a pitcher for Rider.
This is the Broncs' 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament, and first since 2010 -- they're in the Ruston regional and will face 18th-ranked Louisiana Tech.
"We're going to have to pitch, we're going to have to make the plays, we're really going to have to eliminate free bases and big innings," said Rider baseball coach Barry Davis.
Both teams make their 2021 NCAA Tournament debuts Friday: NJIT at 3 p.m. and Rider at 7 p.m.