Softball Begins Season at NFCA Leadoff Classic


Julia Martine and Fordham are looking to build on their 2022 A-10 Championship. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Fordham Softball kicked off their 2023 season this past weekend at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla.

The Rams went 1-4 across five games, picking up a win against Prairie View A&M University but falling to Auburn University, the University of Missouri, the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh.

Fordham is coming off a dream 2022 season that saw an Atlantic 10 Championship win last May. While some key contributors to last year’s success have moved on, the Rams have also retained much of the talent that helped them capture their ninth conference title. Among the notable departures are Rachel Hubertus and Brianna Pinto. Hubertus hit 18 home runs last season and 40 for her career, which places her fourth all-time on the Fordham leaderboards. Pinto is the program’s all-time leader in steals and was named second team All-A-10 in 2022.

Despite these losses, Fordham still has several notable returning players. Junior Bailey Enoch seems poised for another big campaign both in the circle and at the plate, as she was named most outstanding player at the A-10 Championship in the spring. Also returning are seniors Devon Miller and Michaela Carter and graduate student Julia Martine, all of whom played key roles in the Rams’ success a year ago.

But the Rams 2023 season began against some tough opponents, including two SEC schools, a Big 10 school and an ACC school. Opening the season against Auburn on Friday, the Rams fell behind early and weren’t able to recover, eventually losing to the Tigers by a score of 9-0 in six innings via mercy rule. Miller started in the circle for the Rams and went the distance, but she struggled to find her command throughout the contest. Miller only allowed four hits on the day, but her 10 walks allowed, in addition to a hit batter, contributed to her surrendering eight earned runs on the day. While Fordham batters struck out 14 times against Tiger pitching, Miller was only able to retire one batter on strikes.

Things didn’t get easier for the Rams as they again lost in six innings to an SEC school, but this time against Missouri. Mizzou started fast against Enoch, scoring twice in the first and four times in the third to open up an early 6-0 lead. Fordham climbed back into it thanks to an RBI single from Martine and a two-RBI single from Enoch, cutting the lead down to 6-3. The Tigers then used a huge sixth inning to extend their lead to 13-3 and end the game via mercy rule. Both Enoch and sophomore Emilee Watkins got roughed up a bit in the circle, with Enoch giving up six earned runs and six walks in five innings of work and Watkins allowing three earned runs and five hits in just a third of an inning.

But, Fordham was able to rebound on Saturday, picking up the first win of the season against Prairie View A&M in dramatic fashion. A low-scoring contest, freshman Holly Beeman nearly tossed a no-hitter in her Fordham debut, surrendering just one hit and one run in the top of the seventh inning. With the score tied at one in the bottom of the seventh, Michaela Carter walked it off for the Rams on an infield single. Junior Bella Ayala crossed the plate with the winning run, delivering Fordham the 2-1 win for their first triumph of the season.

Later on Saturday, the Rams found themselves on the wrong side of an extra-inning thriller against Illinois. Watkins pitched well, allowing just one earned run in over six innings of work. Leading 2-1 heading in the top of the seventh, Illinois tied the game on a passed ball to send the game towards extras. In the eighth, Illinois jumped out to a 4-2 lead on a clutch single from Kelly Ryono. But the Rams had a big answer in the bottom of the inning when Martine socked a two-run homer to knot things up at four. In the ninth, the Fighting Illini responded with a two-run bomb of their own from Sydney Malot that proved to be the fatal blow. The Rams were unable to answer in the bottom of the frame, falling to Illinois 6-4.

Fordham had one last game down in Florida on Sunday morning, squaring off with the University of Pittsburgh. Trailing 3-0 in the top of the fifth, Fordham rallied furiously, scoring three runs in the frame to tie the game. A two-RBI single from freshman Nicki Sudall knotted things up, but Pitt responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the fifth and three runs in the sixth. The Rams couldn’t muster up a comeback in the seventh, with Pittsburgh taking home the 7-3 victory.

Although Fordham went just 1-4 to open the season, they faced some really difficult opponents down in Florida. The experience of facing solid SEC, ACC and Big 10 schools will prove invaluable once conference play begins this Spring. The Rams will continue their out-of-conference schedule this coming weekend at the Elon Softball Phoenix Invitational in Elon, S.C., with five games scheduled across three days.