Sweep keeps Fordham in race for second place, tournament bye

Fordham University got exactly what it needed in its final home stand of the season.

The two-time defending Atlantic-10 softball champions completed a three-game series sweep of George Washington with 5-1 victory against at Bauoshy Field on Sunday. The Rams, who won 11-3 and 9-0 on Saturday kept pace with second place St. Louis with a bye in the upcoming conference tournament.

“We come into every weekend thinking we are going to sweep knowing that we need to keep getting these wins one at a time,” Rams ace Rachel Gillen said.

Fordham, which trailed first place Dayton by three games, will have to take the second spot outright because St. Louis owns both tiebreakers. The Bilikins took two out of three from Fordham (28-18,14-5) in the opening series of the season and own one more conference win because the Rams had a game against LaSalle cancelled because of rain.

Fordham travels to George Mason to end the regular season this weekend and St. Louis visits UMass.

“We need some help,” Fordham coach Bridget Orchard said. “We need UMass to help up.”

Sophomore Sydney Canessa helped continue the good feeling over the weekend against George Washington (22-23, 4-14). She delivered a lead off home run over the left field fence to give the Rams a 1-0 lead in the series finale.

“She kind of just grooved a pitch and I just kind of took it where it was pitched,” Canessa said. “I think it definitely set the tone for the day.”

Fordham added two more runs in the second inning after George Washington starter Paige Kovalsky helped out by walking four straight batters. Amy Van Hoven chipped in a sac fly to make it 3-0. Lindsay Mayer and Gillen each drove in runs.

Gillen, who also bats fifth. The red-shirt junior, who transferred in from Virginia, allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six for her team-leading 19th win of the season.

Gillen, who missed a season two years ago because of Tommy John surgery, worked her way out of some trouble in the fifth. She allowed just a run after a leadoff walk to Samantha Dos Santos. Gillen got a taste of success as the No. 2 pitcher last season and is enjoying being a bigger part in 2015.

“That’s why I transferred here because I knew we were going to compete for an A-10 [title] every year,” Gillen said. “I knew NCAAs were in our reach every single year.”

She and fellow former Caviler Lindsay Mayer, who plays third and hits third, have been great editions to a strong returning core lead by Van Hovan, Kayla Lombardo, Paige Ortiz and pitcher Michelle Daubman. Mayer had a two-hit day, including a two-out RBI double to make it 4-0 in the fourth.

Orchard sees her team regaining the swagger it had last season. The pressure of being picked No. 1 got to them early on, but now the group is just playing more confidence and relaxed.

She wants to bye to help set up her pitching better for the conference tournament, but cares more about her team continuing to play well coming in into it.

“Us flying under the radar maybe little bit better too,” Orchard said. “I don’t think people are really counted on us.”

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