By Patrick Costello
Nothing that is worth it ever comes easily. After a tough 1-0 loss to Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the playoffs, the Rams bounced all the way back to defeat the Hawks in the championship series on Sunday, capturing their fourth Atlantic 10 title in a row.
The round one loss meant the first seeded Rams would have an uphill battle to repeat their feat. Their second round matchup on Saturday against Dayton went the distance and then some. The Rams and Flyers squared off in a 12 inning pitchers duel, featuring Graduate Pitcher Rachel Gillen and Dayton’s Manda Cash. Gillen allowed four hits in the first six innings, followed by six perfect innings after that. Her career-high 12 inning shutout helped the Rams stay in the game. Junior Outfielder Sydney Canessa ended the contest with a walk-off double with two outs in the bottom of the 12th. The 1-0 win allowed the Rams to move on to face Massachusetts on Sunday in the semifinals.
The semifinal matchup, a 9 a.m. first pitch on Sunday morning, was never in doubt for the Rams. They put up four runs in the third and two runs in the fourth, jumping out to a big lead. Junior pitcher Lauren Quense shut down the Minutewomen, allowing only two runs in the seventh. Seven different Rams had at least one hit in the game, including a 3-3 performance out of A-10 Rookie of the Year Jessica Hughes. That victory secured them a spot in the championship series.
Fittingly, the Rams faced off against the team that beat the in the first round, the fifth seeded Saint Joseph’s Hawks. The Rams were required to win two more games on Sunday following their victory over UMass due to the tournament being double elimination. In game one the Rams jumped out to a quick 2-0 victory thanks to a two-run homerun by A-10 Player of the Year Lindsay Mayer. Sophomore Madison Shaw added another RBI in the third to push the score to 3-0. The Hawks battled back, scoring one run in the fourth on a solo homerun from Sydney Wilson, and two in the fifth on a game tying two-run homerun from Sarah Yoos. Sticking with the theme of the weekend, the game went in to extra innings. Gillen managed to fend off the Hawks batters in top of the eighth, bringing her team back up to the plate. In the bottom of the eighth, with runners on first and second, Junior Infielder Amy Van Hoven hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, bringing Senior Pinch Runner Cailin Winkour in to score. The 4-3 victory was the Rams second walk off win in as many days, but more importantly afforded them the opportunity to play one more winner-take-all game for the A-10 Championship.
The resilient Rams sent Quense to the mound for the second game and hoped she’d be able to repeat her performance from earlier in the day. The Rams jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the second after Sophomore Outfielder Morgan Figueroa plated a run with the bases loaded on a fielder’s choice. They added a second run in the bottom of the fourth on an error by the Hawks, and a third run in the fifth thanks to an RBI single from Sophomore Infielder Madison Shaw. However, the Hawks did not go away quietly, scoring a run in the top of the sixth to make the score 3-1. Following that run Coach Bridget Orchard decided to bring back in her ace and called upon Gillen to shut the Hawks down. The Rams helped her out in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two insurance runs to make the score 5-1. Gillen trotted back out for the top of the seventh and did her job to perfection, picking up the most important save of her Fordham career. For her unbelievable effort over the weekend Gillen was awarded Most Outsanting Player of the tournament. The final score was 5-1, with the Rams ending the Atlantic 10 season as champions.
The A-10 Championship victory is not only an incredible accomplishment for the Rams, but also gives them a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, which begins with the regionals on Friday, May 20, in Eugene, Oregon. Fordham will battle #5 Oregon at 11:30 p.m. EST in its first game of the double elimination round.