Drew Ryback pitches against Cabrini University on Wednesday, March 17. Ryback recorded nine strikeouts and got the win in Rowan's doubleheader against Kean last Saturday. - Multimedia Editor / Alex Rossen

The Rowan baseball team returned to action last week for the first time in over a year. The team had their highs and lows in their first week back as they now sit with a record of 2-2.

One bright spot for the team this week was fifth-year pitcher and co-captain Drew Ryback. Ryback started off the season with an impressive performance against Cabrini University in his only start of the week.

Ryback was perfect for the first 5.2 innings and did not allow any runs in the seven innings he pitched. Ryback’s performance was instrumental in the Profs’ 6-1 victory. For a team that entered the game short handed, coach Mike Dickson said that Ryback’s performance was just what the team needed.

“Obviously being down some players that day, for him to come out and pitch the way he did, that’s true leadership,” Dickson said.

The aspect of Ryback’s performance that impressed Dickson the most was his ability to get ahead in the count early, and this, Dickson explained, is why he believes Ryback was able to have such a dominant performance.

“His first-pitch strikes were incredible. Out of 23 hitters he faced, 22 hitters he threw first pitch strikes. When you’re ahead of hitters like that, they’re going to be constantly swinging defensively against you,” Dickson said.

Ryback tied his career high for strikeouts in a game with nine and he credited this in part to the philosophy put in place by the team’s pitching coach, Kevin Gunter.

“A lot of people think we’re on defense when we’re in the field; he says ‘have the mindset where you’re on offense. Every sport where you have the ball, you’re on offense so attack the hitters as if you’re on offense,’” Ryback said.

Ryback’s performance also earned him New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Pitcher of the Week honors, and Dickson explained that his performance certainly warranted the award.

“I think it was well deserved,” Dickson said. “You pitch like that, you deserve the recognition. He did a fantastic job that day.”

Ryback was 3-0 in his last three starts, all of which came in 2020 prior to the season cancellation. He did not have any trouble picking up where he left off and he described how it felt to finally be playing again. 

“It was so much fun,” Ryback said. “The energy was through the roof and I was just ecstatic to be out there, honestly.”

Ryback is currently 1-1 after the team’s 9-8 loss to Penn State Abington on Tuesday.

The team will be off until next Saturday, April 3, when they will travel to Kean University for a doubleheader. The pair of games will mark the start of seeing conference opponents for Rowan, and they will continue to face conference opponents for the remainder of the season.

Despite a heavily-packed schedule with games that all carry significant weight in relation to rankings, Ryback said the team is not worried about anything more than their next opponent.

“We just try to take everything one day at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time,” he said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

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