Spring Preview: Softball Rebuilds and Reloads

Fordham+Softball+endured+several+offseason+losses%2C+including+six+of+its+nine+starters+and+outfielder+Chelsea+Skrepenak.+%28Courtesy+of+Fordham+Athletics%29

Fordham Softball endured several offseason losses, including six of its nine starters and outfielder Chelsea Skrepenak. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Emmanuel Berbari, Staff Writer

Fordham Softball and Atlantic 10 Champions go together like traffic and weather, but the program hopes to disassociate from that label — in a good way.

Head coach Melissa Inouye did not come back to Rose Hill to simply satisfy the norm.

“Still pretty disappointed that we didn’t get to settle it outright,” said Inouye, referring to the Rams shared title with George Washington University. “I think we still talk about that now, but nonetheless I thought it was pretty good and, if anything, we’re trying to maintain the legacy here.”

That is the competitive drive behind seven straight A-10 titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances over the last decade.

Fordham maintained supremacy despite dealing with some injuries, with seniors Jordy Storm, Chelsea Skrepenak, Molly Roark, Maria Trivelpiece, Deanna Burbridge and Kylie Michael all elevating their games and leading the Rams to a regional appearance in Seattle.

“I think they’ve not only circled several series on our schedule, but if anything it leaves a little bit a bad taste,” said Inouye. “I know it’s crazy to think, winning a championship, and I think it just goes to prove the regular season title meant a lot last year, but it leaves a chip on our shoulder for sure.”

With the impactful seniors out of the fold, Fordham can turn to one of the best players the program has ever seen, whose competitive drive is as rich as ever.
Senior Madie Aughinbaugh continued to build on her increasingly iconic resume, winning A-10 Pitcher of the Year and a second straight A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

“She worked for it and deserved it and carried us quite a bit,” said Inouye. “She’s a never-satisfied kind of kid, and that’s what makes her competitive and successful because of the standard she holds herself to.”

She not only thrived in the circle, but hit a team-high .354, and she enters her senior season within the program’s all-time top 10 in starts, complete games, wins, innings, strikeouts and career ERA.

Aughinbaugh is one of only two seniors on this year’s roster, but sophomores Makenzie McGrath, Sarah Taffet, Gigi Speer, Kelly Bright and Julia Martine all bring beyond-their-years experience, having conquered the A-10 battles and competed in a regional setting.

“They were really proud of the performance we had there,” said Inouye. “It said a lot to our competitiveness, not backing down to whoever we’re playing.”

Fordham fell to No. 2 Washington, 2-0, with Aughinbaugh mostly silencing one of the nation’s most potent offenses, and dropped a heartbreaker to Seattle, 1-0 in eight innings, effectively ending their season.

Many Rams spoke to the program’s loftier aspirations on various occasions last year.

Freshmen Devon Miller, Katelyn Vara, Amanda Carey and Michaela Carter are acclimating to a culture that expects them to maintain the A-10 standard and compete on a national level.

“The team and the program wants to push past a regional,” said Inouye. “If you’re looking at the future, we want to push for a super regional. That would be our next vision.”

Miller projects to be one of the more promising freshman, and could slot behind Aughinbaugh as the Rams look for answers in starting pitching depth.

The Chadds Ford, PA native earned Pennsylvania State Softball Association 5A Player of the Year honors at Bishop Shanahan High School, fanning over 1,000 batters in her career.

Fordham adds transfer catcher Aubree Barney out of Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington, who batted .400 and stroked 14 homers.

These are some of the reinforcements Fordham will count on as it strives for new heights.

With their senior ace, fearless leader and one of Softball America’s Top 100 players ready to lead the charge, it is on the newcomers to adapt to a longstanding tradition, just as Inouye did in her first year as head coach a season ago.

“Competitiveness, not afraid to play anybody, the championship culture and that we are always going to work harder than anyone else,” said Inouye. People could see it as pressure, but if anything, it’s very motivating to be a part of a program that’s already had so much success.”

The Rams will make trips to Houston, Texas; Fresno, California; Fort Myers, Florida; Durham, North Carolina; and Charleston, South Carolina as part of a demanding and formidable out of conference slate.

“We schedule hard for a reason,” said Inouye. “It’s to get us in a regional type of atmosphere early, so when we do get to regional it’s not a deer in the headlights look, and we want to play the best.”