This past weekend in Fairfax, Virginia, Fordham Softball once again rose atop the Atlantic 10 and won the conference championship for the ninth time since 2011.
It came at the expense of George Washington University (GWU), a team that swept Fordham earlier this year and was considered a much better team for a majority of the season. But the key factor was Fordham’s pitching. Like it had done many times down the stretch, pitching kept Fordham in the hunt.
The Rams also peaked at the absolute best time, sweeping two of their final series against George Mason University (GMU) and Saint Bonaventure University (SBU) on the road. They then split two games against a very competitive University of Dayton team at home, winning seven of their final eight games before heading to the tournament.
Throughout the final stretch, Fordham pitching combined to allow 21 total runs in their final eight regular season games, allowing three runs or less in five of the games. This stretch also included a complete game shutout by junior Devon Miller against GMU, as the Rams allowed more than four runs just twice during that stretch.
Fordham’s offense exploded as well at the perfect time; they tallied a total of 46 runs with an average run total of 5.75 runs per game. They scored 12 runs in the Dayton series, and dropped a whopping 23 runs in their sweep against Saint Bonaventure.
Earlier in the year, head coach Melissa Inouye said that her team was really missing the out-of-conference schedule, citing that she felt the group had peaked way too early in 2021. This was also at a point when Fordham started the year 3-7. The Rams went into an out of conference blast furnace in which they played three tournaments (the Grand Canyon Kickoff Classic, the Battle at the Beach and the Boerner Invitational) and had a record of 6-8 between the three tournaments with an overall out of conference record of 13-11.
There were games that Fordham could have won, such as their first A-10 game against Saint Louis when they allowed six runs in the ninth, or an extra innings loss to Iona College. A split with an Army team that went 20-34 this year also comes to mind, or even a split with Dayton who finished 22-25 this year.
But going 15-7 in conference play is what mattered, and going 3-1 in the A-10 tournament is where it counted for the Rams. They began A-10s against Saint Joseph’s University, a team that Fordham faced at Bahoshy Field earlier in the season and lost two out of three games. Last year Fordham had played SJU in the regular season finale, and lost three of four but did beat them in round one of the 2021 A-10 tournament.
The Hawks, coached by Fordham Hall of Famer Erin Brooks, are a team groomed to hit the ball hard and play the gaps of defenses. This strategy worked earlier in the year and gave Fordham a ton of fits, but the Rams came well armed both mentally and physically.
For four and two thirds innings, the Hawks and Rams played to a stalemate. Senior Makenzie McGrath pitched six innings of two-run ball, but the Hawks got lucky on an infield error and added some key hits to make it 2-0 SJU in the top of the fifth.
The Rams got the ball rolling with an RBI double by senior Julia Martine that drove in junior Michaela Carter to take a run back. Miller singled in the sixth and was replaced for a pinch runner by freshman Mary Grace O’Neill, which set the stage for senior Sarah Taffet. She roped a triple that drove in O’Neill and knotted things up at two.
Moving to the bottom of the seventh, graduate student Rachel Hubertus knocked a single to get Fordham’s final push rolling. She would be pulled for freshman Mallory McClellan to add more speed on the basepaths. Martine flew out, but it moved McClellan to second base and scoring position. Junior Amanda Carey wrapped up the opening round for the Rams with a walk-off RBI single that scored McClellan, securing the 3-2 victory.
The win pushed Fordham into the semifinals of the A-10 tournament where they faced George Washington University. The Colonials swept Fordham earlier this year when they met on March 19-20 in the nation’s capital. Fordham went down early in all three of those games, but that changed in this semifinal matchup behind brilliant pitching.
Devon Miller pitched her most important game of the season, going the full seven innings of three-hit ball. She also struck out three, walked one, and hit a batter. Miller also contributed offensively by reaching base on a fielder’s choice in the seventh inning.
Fordham’s offense produced the only run in the 1-0 victory; junior Amanda Carey led off in the top of the third inning with a double. Graduate student Brianna Pinto came up two batters later and tattooed a double to left field that scored Carey which ended up being the decider.
And so, the Rams marched into the finale where they would once again face George Washington in the double elimination bracket.
The first game saw George Washington play the role of the alpha in a 6-3 win, where a four run third inning by GW’s offense put the Rams in a hole they didn’t climb out of despite Enoch having two RBIs on the day, and redshirt senior Rachel Hubertus hitting home run number 17 on the year. The Rams were determined to reverse course in game two, and did so in a big way.
Fordham pounced in the first inning with two consecutive hit-by-pitches, with junior Michaela Carter and Hubertus both getting beaned. This was followed by Enoch walking to juice the bases for senior Julia Martine. She made contact, scoring Carter and allowing Martine to reach first on the fielder’s choice to get Fordham up in front 1-0. Miller would help her own cause driving in a second run and giving herself a 2-0 cushion when she took the circle.
The Colonials pulled a run back in the second, but Fordham distanced themselves even further. In the third, Enoch continued her A-10 tournament tear with a solo home run to make things 3-1. Carey began the fourth with a double, which was followed by a single from sophomore Bella Ayala to put two runners on. Following a groundout from senior Sarah Taffet that moved the runners over, Pinto smacked a double down the left field line that scored both runners and put Fordham up 5-3.
In the sixth, Pinto reached base again via a single, and then advanced on a ground ball. Hubertus stepped up to the plate again and drove in Pinto with an RBI single and sealed the deal for the Rams. Miller once again went for a complete game outing, striking out three and walking three batters, and allowing three earned runs as she snagged her 10th win on the year. The title was put into the clutches of the Rams after Michaela Carter made the final out in left field, securing a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
The Rams head out to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face the seventh ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, and are also joined by the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, and the University of North Texas Mean Green. This will be the 10th time that Fordham heads to NCAA regionals.