By ANTHONY PUCIK
For the second straight year and the third time in four years, the Fordham Rams are the Atlantic-10 softball Champions. The Rams defeated the second-seeded University St. Louis Billikens 11-0 in five innings to take the title this afternoon.
Fordham was the first seed, earning a bye in the first round of the tournament, and took on the fourth seeded University of Massachusetts Minutewomen, who defeated the fifth seeded Dayton Flyers in their first game. The Rams got the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning, when junior Rachel Gillen’s fielder’s choice off UMass starter Caroline Raymond plated senior Paige Ortiz to give Fordham the 1-0 lead. The Minutewomen answered back in the top of the third on an RBI single by Lindsey Webster off Fordham’s junior ace, Atlantic-10 Co-Pitcher of the Year, All-Conference First Team and Academic All-Conference team member Michele Daubman, to tie the game at one.
After that, it was all Fordham. A three-run homerun by All-Conference First Team senior Gabby Luety in the bottom of the third and a two-run homerun by junior Academic All-Conference team member Kayla Lombardo gave Fordham a 6-1 advantage. Fordham would then force the run rule in the bottom of the sixth on three RBI singles by Ortiz, Gillen and junior Cora Ianiro to give Fordham the 9-1 win. Daubman earned her sixteenth victory of the season (16-10), Raymond fell to 10-12 for UMass and sophomore Patti Maloney picked up her fifth save in one inning of scoreless relief.
Fordham’s next opponent was the second-seeded St. Louis Billikens, who defeated the St. third-seeded Joseph’s Hawks in their opening round game. This game ended up being a pitcher’s duel between Daubman and the other A-10 Co-Pitcher of the Year, Brianna Lore. The game was scoreless until the top of the sixth, when Kelsey Biggs’ RBI single gave St. Louis the 1-0 advantage. But the Rams answered in the bottom of the sixth. Atlantic-10 Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team senior Elise Fortier tied the game for Fordham with a solo homerun, which was followed up by another solo shot from Lombardo to give the Rams the 2-1 lead. Daubman was able to close the door in the top of the seventh and Fordham advanced to the A-10 title game. Daubman earned her second win of the tournament (17-10), Lore suffered the loss (24-12) and Maloney picked up her sixth save of the season.
The Rams would once again take on the Billikens in the championship of the double elimination tournament after St. Louis defeated St. Joe’s for the second time to advance to the championship game. But this one was not the pitcher’s duel we saw in Game 1 between these two teams, as the wear and tear of three games took their toll on Lore, the only pitcher St. Louis had used up to that point in the tournament. Fordham took the lead on the first batter of the game as freshman Sydney Canessa took Lore deep to make it 1-0. An RBI single by Luety pushed the lead to 2-0 Fordham after one.
Fordham continued to pad their lead in the bottom of the second. An RBI single by Ianiro, an RBI double by freshman Amy Van Hoven and a two-run homerun by Fortier pushed the lead to 6-0 Rams. That would be it for Lore, but Fordham hit reliever Laney Kneib hard as well. Another Luety solo homerun and a pair of two-run doubles by Ianiro and Canessa gave Fordham the 11-0 lead. Daubman would close out the last two innings, only surrendering two hits in five innings, and the Rams won on the run rule to earn their second straight A-10 Championship.
The future is certainly bright for the Rams. They do lose great all-around players in Fortier and Luety, but the battery of Daubman, freshman Lauren Quense, Gillen and Maloney remains intact and great play from young players like Canessa and Van Hoven are expected to continue if not get even better. Couple that with the coaching of head coach Bridget Orchard and it will be hard to argue that Fordham will not be battling for their third straight Atlantic-10 title next year.
The Rams will next head to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. The team will find out its opponent during the NCAA selection show, tomorrow night at 10 p.m.
Anthony Pucik is Assistant Sports Editor at The Fordham Ram.