Miller’s Third No-Hitter Highlights Softball’s Sweep of UMass

With a dominant series capped off by explosive hitting and a Devon Miller no-hitter, Fordham rolled past UMass and heads into a crucial bout with Saint Joseph’s to end the regular season.

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Softball earned another series win to head into a pivotal one to end the season against St. Joe’s. (Mackenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

Alexander Wolz, Sports Editor

It was just over two weeks ago now that Fordham Softball lost its twenty game win streak to Army West Point. Equally as later, the Rams have reeled off ten consecutive wins to improve to 35-5 on the season, with their latest four coming this past weekend against the University of Massachusetts.

In the year’s first series in Amherst, Fordham earned two hard-fought wins before blowing things open in a pair of five-inning blowouts. The latest meeting followed a similar trajectory, with a pair of close contests and two lopsided ones, including the third no-hitter of the year from sophomore Devon Miller.

That did not come until the series’ final game, as graduate student ace Madie Aughinbaugh took the mound in the opener. She squared off against UMass’ ace Jessie Dipasquale, who has earned ten of the team’s thirteen wins this season. However, Fordham wasted no time picking up where they left off, rattling off four runs in the first two innings. Senior first baseman Rachel Hubertus continued her hot spurt with an RBI single, followed by a run-scoring groundout from freshman third baseman Bella Ayala and a gratuitous fielding error to bring home an unearned run against the Minutewomen.

Fordham added one more run in the second thanks to a double from junior infielder Julia Martine to drive home Aughinbaugh and that 4-0 scoreline was where the game stood until the fifth. There, Fordham’s top of the order continued to produce. After a single from senior outfielder Anne Marie Prentiss and a pair of walks loaded up the bases, Aughinbaugh and Martine drove them home with a single and line out, respectively.

Pinto (above) continues to be one of the Rams’ most imposing players both at the plate and on the bases. (Mackenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

With a lethal threat in senior outfielder Brianna Pinto on the basepaths — a perfect 27 for 27 in stolen base attempts — she advanced over to third and ultimately scored on a double steal attempt with Aughinbaugh at second.

Fordham looked set to cruise to a win in the series opener, but UMass had other plans in mind. In the top of the sixth, they scored five unabated runs through a combination of base hits with nothing stretching beyond a single. It had an eerily similar feel to the three runs Aughinbaugh allowed in the top of the seventh to end the team’s win streak against Army.

However, this time the Rams had enough run support to fend off the opposition and added one more in the bottom half of the inning with a double from junior infielder Sarah Taffet. UMass applied some more pressure with two hits in the seventh — even bringing the tying run to the plate — but Aughinbaugh was able to hold them off and earn the win.

She finished the day with a seven strikeout, five run — only three earned — and twelve hit afternoon. Despite being the most hits allowed on the season, it was enough to earn her 13th win of the season and set the stage for Saturday.

Fordham had no such drama there. Miller did the work in this game, picking up double-digit strikeouts with eleven and her only blemish being a pair of hits resulting in one unearned run. 

Looking at the hits column may be a bit underwhelming, as Fordham produced just seven on the day, but it resulted in ten runs, enough to apply the mercy rule. Hubertus again got things started in the top of the first with her eleventh home run of the season, cementing her status as the strongest hitter with a remarkable .711 slugging percentage and over half a century’s worth of RBIs, nearly double the team’s next closest.

UMass got one back in the second, but with three runs already on the board, Fordham pounced in the bottom half of the inning. The Rams quickly loaded up the bases with a single and a stolen base, followed by a hit by pitch and a walk. Taffet then walked to shift around the runners and bring one run home, followed by a massive three-run double from Miller, rising to eight hits on the year and an equal number of RBIs.

Fordham has shown this proficiency of scoring in bunches all season long, and when they become a very difficult team to overcome when they do. Hubertus added one run in the third and Aughinbaugh dealt the final blow with a two-run home run in the fifth, more importantly, applying the mercy rule to end things in five with a 10-1 score line.

To UMass’ credit, freshman starter Jenna Bradley pitched the entire way, despite Fordham putting more runs on the board in each outing against her since being blanked for two innings of relief in the previous series.

As the closest contest of the weekend, UMass fought back valiantly in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader. Whereas Fordham jumped out to the lead in the first inning of the previous games, no runs crossed the plate until the third of this one.

Prentiss was on the mound for Fordham, herself with an undefeated record on the line against Dipasquale. Both pitchers were solid through two innings, but UMass broke through first in the top of the third by capitalizing on a leadoff double from Jules Shields.  

That was as long of a lead as UMass had, however, as Fordham struck back in the bottom half of the inning with two of their own. Pinto advanced all the way to third because of a  throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly from Aughinbaugh. Martine then belted a triple down the right field line to be brought home with a groundout from freshman Bailey Enoch.

UMass paid for leaving two on base in the first, as it was the best chance they had on the day, and Fordham began to run away with things in the fourth. There, Prentiss and Taffett combined for a pair of singles to start the inning, and a single from sophomore outfielder Michaela Carter scored one. After stealing second and putting two runners in scoring position, Aughinbaugh delivered with a single to push the lead to four.

It was part of a masterful weekend for Aughinbaugh that, in addition to her win on the mound, produced three multi-hit games and seven RBIs. Carter, who has started in each game on the season and sits second in batting average at .370 only to Pinto’s .427, has produced a hit in three quarters of them, including one in each game this weekend. Carter earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors for her efforts, as the award has expanded to include sophomores due to last year’s abbreviated season, while Aughinbaugh was named Player of the Week.

Devon Miller (above) became just the second Ram to throw three no-hitters in a single season. (Mackenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

UMass brought another run across the plate in the final inning, but it was far from enough as Fordham walked away with the 5-2 victory. The two teams equaled in hits on the day with seven apiece, and Prentiss threw over 100 pitches on the afternoon including four walks. But as was the weekend’s theme, the Rams showed a greater proficiency to capitalize, leaving just three on base compared to the Minutewomen’s nine.

And in the series’ last game of both the weekend and the season, Fordham put UMass away in a mere five innings as they look toward a key matchup to finish off their regular season campaign. There, Fordham made short work of UMass, bringing ten runs to the plate and letting none across in what was the third no-hitter of the year for Miller.

It may not have been a perfect game like the first two against La Salle because of two walks and a hit by pitch, but Miller was once again an unstoppable force with five innings pitched, eight strikeouts and the key number, zero hits. Factoring in this outing, the Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania native has delivered five straight shutout complete games, driving her season ERA down to a mere 1.11. In fact, all three of Fordham’s aces sit below two in that category, with Miller leading the way along with an incredible 146 strikeouts.

The accomplishment cannot be understated, as Miller becomes just the second Ram to throw three no-hitters in a season, the first to do it entirely against conference opponents, and does so in her first full season with the team. She earned conference Pitcher of the Week for it, completing Fordham’s twelfth sweep of the weekly awards in program history, and earned her third individually in the category.

Ayala (above) and the Fordham offense clicked in the final match against the Minutewomen. (Mackenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

And at the plate, Fordham was no slouch on Sunday, either. The Rams brought home another ten runs in this one with the long ball, sending out three home runs. Following a familiar start from the day before, Hubertus continued her incredible run of form in the first with a three-run shot, making it a dozen on the season.

Martine echoed her in the second with a three-run homer of her own, scoring Carter and Aughinbaugh. Ayala belted out a three-run home run to left center field to make it a perfect trio and put the game away early for Fordham. 

Aughinbaugh again had the final say with an RBI in the third to make it an even ten, and the only thing left to question the rest of the way was Miller’s no-hitter. And she got the job done.

With the weekend sweep, Fordham not only defeats a talented conference opponent but builds its perfect record in the A-10 to 16-0. Now, whether or not the Rams will host the conference tournament comes down to a crucial four-game final series against Saint Joseph’s University which begins this Friday.

The Hawks sit at 23-17, which may not look as impressive as Fordham’s 35-5 record, but at 16-2 in-conference. One good weekend could rip home field away from the Rams and shift things over to George Washington University, where the Colonials sit at 19-1 in the central region.

From the moment the conference split was announced, it seemed like Fordham was on a crash course with George Washington to settle their championship split in 2019. If Fordham takes care of business this weekend like they have all season long, they will have a chance to hold up their end of the bargain at Bahoshy Field.