TALLAHASSEE, FLA.- The 2014 Atlantic 10 Champions held a one-run lead heading into the top of the sixth, but two unearned tallies from South Carolina gave the Gamecocks a lead that they would not surrender, eliminating the Rams from the NCAA Tournament, 5-4, on Saturday evening.
The Rams compiled a 36-20 record during the 2014 campaign, a season that saw them record their third Atlantic 10 title and their third Atlantic 10 regular season crown.
With a two-run round-tripper in the bottom of the fourth, Elise Fortier became the Fordham all-time home run leader with 46 for her career. To make the accomplishment even more impressive for the senior, 2014 was only her third year in a Rams uniform. The homer, her 20th of the year, also tied her own Atlantic 10 single-season record set in 2013.
The Gamecocks got off to a quick start, as Ashlyn Masters nailed the first pitch of the game for a single up the middle and Kristen Struett reached base on a HBP in the next at bat. Michele Daubman looked as if she might work her way out of the jam, recording two straight groundouts, but Ansley Ard knocked a two-out, two-run single to right to give her team the early lead, 2-0.
In the top of the second, the Gamecocks placed a runner in scoring position with one out, but Daubman deftly worked her way out of trouble, finishing the inning with no damage done.
In the bottom of the frame, Gabby Luety walked to become Fordham's first base runner of the contest, but a hard-hit liner to first turned into a double play and the Rams went down without a run.
South Carolina started the third with a leadoff triple, but Fortier kicked off a 6-3-2 twin-killing in the next at bat and the Rams closed out the inning unscathed after a groundout to Kayla Lombardo.
Rachel Gillen took a pitch off the elbow to reach first with one down in the bottom of the third, but the Gamecocks turned their second double play of the game to end the inning.
Ard reached on an infield single to begin the fourth frame, but Luety unleased a rocket to get her out at second on an attempted steal. The Gamecocks would record another hit in the inning, but Daubman ended it with her first strikeout of the contest to keep the South Carolina lead at 2-0.
In the bottom of the inning, Sydney Canessa started things off with a leadoff walk before an Amy Van Hoven fielder's choice made it one on and one out for Fortier. After working the count in her favor, the Coventry, R.I., launched her record-breaking homer over the centerfield wall to tie the contest at two.
Gillen moved to the circle to begin the fifth, surrendering a one-out solo shot to Ashlyn Masters that put the Gamecocks back on top, 3-2.
Down one, the Rams answered right back in the home half of the inning. Paige Ortiz reached on an error with one out and Gillen poked a single through the left side to make it first and second for Cora Ianiro. After Ortiz and Gillen were pinch run for Brianna Ciuffi and Cailin Winokur, respectively, Ianiro singled up the middle to load the bases. With the top of the order due up, Canessa recorded her first hit of the regional, an RBI single to left that knotted the score at three. After the Gamecocks nixed the lead runner on a fielder's choice to record the inning's second out, Fortier knocked a hard-hit single to third, picking up her third RBI of the day and giving the Rams the 4-3 lead.
Patti Maloney who had been 100% efficient in save situations since March 20th, took the rubber in the sixth. After Kaylea Snaer led off the inning with a walk, Ard bunted to the pitcher, but a throwing error sent the ball way into foul territory and allowed both she and Brooke Barnhill, who pinch ran for Snaer, to score. Following the play, South Carolina held a 5-4 lead.
After keeping South Carolina scoreless in the seventh, the Rams failed to record the equalizer in the home half of the frame.