By Jonah Haskell
Any theories that the departure of Rachel Gillen would leave a hole in the Rams’ rotation were soundly disproved this weekend in North Carolina, courtesy of Lauren Quense. The senior pitcher delivered three superb starts at the Pirate Clash in Greenville, allowing just one run in 17.2 innings and tossing her first career no hitter on Sunday morning against Bryant University.
“She uses her defense and makes key pitches at key times to get out of big situations for the wins,” said Fordham head coach Bridget Orchard. “She has been locked in.”
The offense was locked in as well, scoring 35 runs in five games over the weekend as the Rams went 3-2 to raise their mark for the season to 7-3. Fordham’s run scoring was more reliant on small ball this time around, as opposed to the homer-fest that took place last week in Arizona. This may be partially due to an illness that caused Jessica Hughes, one of the Rams’ biggest power bats, to miss both games of a double-header on Friday, but coach Orchard was okay with a game plan change.
“This year we have both power and speed so…we plan to utilize both the short game and the long ball this season,” she said.
Fordham opened the weekend against Bryant on Friday and did not waste any time jumping ahead. By the time Quense took the mound in the bottom of the first, she had a 7-0 lead thanks to an RBI double, three bases loaded walks and a three-run double by shortstop Amy Van Hoven in the top of the inning. From there Quense took over the game, tossing four scoreless frames while striking out four and allowing just 2 hits. The Rams would add another run in the sixth when Jordy Storm grounded out to score Madison Shaw, and Taylor Stocks came to pitch the final two innings. She allowed no runs and struck out three, giving Fordham an 8-0 win.
Later that same day the Rams went into extra innings against St. Francis, eventually falling 5-3 in the ninth. Fordham got out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a one-run single from DH Shaw and an RBI groundout from sophomore LF Maria Trivelpiece. Freshman Madison Auginbaugh got the start for the Rams and began well, but she allowed three runs in the third to give St Francis the lead. Fordham came right back in the bottom of the inning when Madison Shaw hit a double to bring in Sydney Canessa and tie the game at three. And that’s where the score would stay for the next five innings, until St Francis finally broke through in the ninth for two runs against Auginbaugh, who threw 8.1 brilliant innings. She was replaced by Stocks, who got out of the inning but the Rams couldn’t make up the deficit in the bottom of the inning.
On Saturday, Fordham was back in action against St. Francis, and this time they came out with a 6-1 win behind a great start from Quense. The senior threw a complete game, allowing just one run and five hits while striking out five for her second win of the weekend. Shaw starred on the offensive side, going 2-3 with 2 RBIs, while Canessa was 2-2, with 2 runs scored and an RBI.
The Rams’ second game that day was against the hosts of the tournament, East Carolina, and it was a close one. Stocks got her first start of the tournament for Fordham and pitched well, allowing one run in four innings. The Rams took the lead in the fifth after Van Hoven grounded out to score Morgan Figueroa, and Jessica Hughes hit a solo homer. But East Carolina tied it at two in the bottom of the inning against Auginbaugh, who had come in for Stocks. In the bottom of the seventh, with the score still tied at two, Kacie Oshiro hit a walk-off double to deliver Fordham the loss.
The Rams had one more game to play in Greenville, as they took on Bryant for the second time on Sunday morning. Quense took the mound for her third start and did not miss a beat as she tossed her first career no-hitter, walking only one and striking out three over six innings. But she was not the only star of the game, as the offense had a field day, scoring 16 runs, including an 11-run sixth that secured the 16-0 win.
The Rams 7-3 start is certainly impressive, but Coach Orchard is always looking for her team to improve.
“We are learning a lot on what we need to work on and also what we do well,” she said. “We learn a lot from the losses as they expose our weaknesses.”
Coach Orchard is also looking forward to watching the growth of Auginbaugh and Stocks, who she says will be a major part of the Rams’ future success.
“I am happy with the season so far,” said Orchard. “The team is very resilient and I was proud of how they battled all weekend.”
The Rams will travel next to Orlando, FL this weekend. On Friday, Feb. 24 they will play an exhibition against a team from the Czech Republic and then face #1 Florida later in the day. On Saturday, they have a double-header against Oakland and Elon. And they round out their weekend on Sunday with a game against Georgia Southern.