The Fordham Ram

Softball Off to Slow Start

Softball+huddles+up+before+taking+the+field.+%28Courtesy+of+Fordham+Athletics%29
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Softball Off to Slow Start

Softball huddles up before taking the field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Softball huddles up before taking the field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Softball huddles up before taking the field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Softball huddles up before taking the field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)


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By Brendan O’Connell

Softball huddles up before taking the field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

After a long offseason, the team began its 2018 campaign by partaking in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic and the University of South Florida Tournament over the course of the past two weeks.

Unfortunately for the team, it came out of the tournaments with a 1-9 record, as it faced a plethora of top-notch opponents.

Despite the results in the box score, Head Coach Bridget Orchard expressed confidence in her team and explained that these challenging tournaments at the beginning of the season will help to make her team more resilient and battle-tested over time.

“We are building and improving each game out,” Orchard said in an email interview, stressing the team’s focus on incremental progress. “We take these games as an opportunity to learn and grow mentally and physically. It is very tough to go out and lose or fail, but I do believe that in the end it will make us better. We are not focused on wins and losses right now; we are focused on finding the right line up and getting better for A-10 play.”

In an effort to prepare itself for conference play later this season, the team took on #5/4 UCLA, #23/22 California, UC Santa Barbara, #21/24 Utah and Arkansas over the weekend of Feb. 17-19, dropping all five contests by a combined score of 36-13.

“We are young and very inexperienced,” Orchard acknowledged. “We made a lot of mistakes that I feel we will improve on. Our weaknesses got exposed and we plan to work on those at practice. We need to improve on all aspects of our game.”

Though the scoreboard showed the Rams on the losing end of many of their match-ups, Orchard was able to find a few silver linings, especially in their lone win over Drake – a thrilling 5-4 triumph in extra innings.

She said of the victory, “It was a complete team effort where everyone played a part. We had some key pinch runners come through for us and got great defensive plays from the outfielders, especially Deanna Burbridge’s game ending catch in left field. Freshman Paige Rauch pitched 9 innings and also had a great day at the plate hitting a homerun to put us up 1-0. It was a gutsy performance, as we still are making too many errors but were able to fight back and win the game.”

Even with the losses the team suffered during the rest of the weekend against Bryant, USF and Drake, Orchard anticipates that her squad will turn a corner soon.

“We took a few more tough losses the rest of the weekend, but we are building and still searching for that right line up,” she said. “Our bats have been quiet and I’m hoping once we get it going we start to gain some momentum. Hitting is contagious and right now we are not hitting well. I think the hitting is also affecting our pitching, which has not been good either, but our pitchers are experienced and we will get it together. I have confidence in our team that once everything clicks we will be good. All 17 players are working hard, competing and not giving up, which will pay off in the end.”

Amid their hard work, the Rams were also fortunate enough to compete against Team Japan in an exhibition game on Feb. 18.

“It was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on the field some of the best in the world,” said Orchard of the contest, which ended 13-3 in favor of the Japanese. “Everyone [on our team] got to play in the game and it was a learning experience for everyone.”

Along with these unforgettable memories, the Rams came away from their first two weeks knowing what work they have cut out for them in the short- and long-term.

“These tournaments are huge for us, we’re starting a week a later than usual, which I feel set us back a little, but now that we are finally out on the field playing we are only going to get better. We play a very challenging schedule, so the players need to be mentally tough and try not to get too high or too low.”

With 18 years in the Fordham dugout and five consecutive Atlantic 10 championships under her belt, Orchard knows the season is a long haul full of ups and downs.

“It is a roller coaster and my job as a coach is to make sure the players aren’t riding it. These early games show us what we have and what changes we need to make. It is very mentally tough for these girls to experience failure. My philosophy has always been to throw them to the fire and make them stronger. It is never easy, and even after 20 years it is still mentally tough on me, so I know it will be hard for the players, but again they will be better because of it. The ability to handle failure is a key component to being successful.”

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Softball Off to Slow Start