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Conference-leading NU baseball takes on Rider


NIAGARA UNIV. – The MAAC-leading Purple Eagles baseball team heads to Lawrenceville, N.J. for a three-game series with the Rider Broncs Friday and Saturday.

The Purple Eagles split a doubleheader with Little 3 rival St. Bonaventure on Tuesday. The Bonnies took the first game, 5-1, and Niagara earned a 2-1 walk-off win in game two.

Sophomore shortstop Greg Cullen leads the Purple Eagles at the plate with a team-high 41 hits. He is batting a team-best .363 and also leads the team in RBI with 25. Junior outfielder Tanner Kirwer leads NU in runs scored with 29, in doubles with 17 and in stolen bases with 17. He also has a team-best slugging percentage of .527 and on-base percentage of .451. He is second on the team in hits with 38. Peter Battaglia, a freshman first baseman, is second on the team in RBI with 24 and third in hits with 32. On the mound, redshirt-junior Cody Eckerson (4-1) has struck out 29 batters in 30.1 innings pitched. He has an ERA of 1.78. Freshman Matthew Brash (5-0) leads the Niagara pitching staff in innings pitched with 42.0 and senior Daniel Procopio (4-2) has struck out a team-high 48 batters. Procopio is the only pitcher to throw a complete game for Niagara so far this season.

Niagara's 7-2 start to conference play is its best since 2004, when the team also went 7-2 in its first nine MAAC games. The Purple Eagles are in sole possession of the top spot in the MAAC. The Purple Eagles lead the MAAC in doubles (59) and stolen bases (44). They are second in on-base percentage (.370) and fourth in runs scored (156), RBI (136) and triples (six). The Niagara pitching staff has held opponents to the lowest batting average (.227) and leads the MAAC in batters struck out looking (65). Their combined ERA of 3.90 is the second best in the conference. Kirwer leads the MAAC in runs scored (29), doubles (17) and stolen bases (17). Cullen is tied for most RBI with 25 and he is second in hits with 41. Eckerson's 1.78 ERA is the best in the MAAC. He has also allowed the fewest doubles (two). Procopio has held opponents to a .168 batting average, which is the best in the conference. He also leads the MAAC in batters struck out looking with 21.

Catcher Lee Lipinski is batting a team-best .360 for the Broncs. Freshman infielder Kyle Johnson leads Rider in hits with 33 and in stolen bases with 10. Tyler Kaiser, a senior first baseman, has a team-high 22 RBI and junior pitcher/outfielder Harrison McClure leads the team in runs scored with 23. Junior Nick Margevicius (3-1) leads the Broncs on the mound. He has struck out 40 batters in 44.1 innings pitched and has an ERA of 2.44.

The Broncs leads the MAAC in RBI with 149 and in triples with eight. They are second in runs scored (169), hits (255) and doubles (51) and are third in slugging percentage (.381). Lipinski leads the MAAC in on-base percentage (.475) and is fifth in batting average (.360) and slugging percentage (.533). Johnson's 10 stolen bases are the second-most in the MAAC and McClure's 23 runs scored are the fourth-most in the MAAC. Margevicius is fourth in the MAAC in batters struck out (40) and has the fifth-best ERA (2.44).

Niagara plays a three-game series at Monmouth April 22-23. The teams will play a doubleheader starting at noon on April 22 and a single game starting at noon on April 23.