Augh­in­baugh fly­ing high at Ford­ham Univer­sity

Port Tobacco res­i­dent leads softball to A-10 cham­pi­onship

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­news.com Twitter: @SOMDhab­s­fan

Try as she might, Madie Augh­in­baugh was just un­able to get the bunt down May 14 against the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts. So with two strikes star­ing her in the face, Augh­in­baugh swung away and the re­sult was even bet­ter than she could have imag­ined.

The Ford­ham Univer­sity (N.Y.) fresh­man — a St. Mary’s Ryken High School grad­u­ate from Port Tobacco — promptly lined a sin­gle down the right-field line to score Chelsea Skrepe­nak from sec­ond base and de­feat the Min­ute­men 2-1 in nine in­nings to clinch the At­lantic 10 softball cham­pi­onship.

Ear­lier in the day, UMass forced the must-win game when it ral­lied to score two runs in the sev­enth and one in the eighth to earn a 3-2 win.

In the ti­tle game, Augh­in­baugh scored the ty­ing run in the fifth in­ning and later strode to the plate with one out in the ninth and Skrepe­nak on sec­ond.

“I was ac­tu­ally sup­posed to get the bunt down and I didn’t get it down, so I had to get my stuff to­gether and come through for my team­mates,” Augh­in­baugh said. “The pitcher was jamming me in all day; she hadn’t given me any­thing out­side but she gave me an out­side pitch — and that’s what I like — and I drove it.

“[As I’m run­ning to first,] I was watching home plate and think­ing, ‘Come on Chelsea, get home, get home, and we win.’ That was all I was think­ing about. I didn’t even go to sec­ond [right away] be­cause [my run] didn’t mat­ter. I’d just stay here and if Chelsea gets home, we’re good.”

Skrepe­nak scored and the Rams clinched their fifth-straight con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

“They all went home to cheer on Chelsea and then they came out to me and I got a huge dog­pile,” Augh­in­baugh said. “And it was prob­a­bly, to this day, the best moment I’ve had in my softball ca­reer. It was pretty amaz­ing.”

“Who else can do some­thing like that un­der pres­sure?,” asked St. Mary’s Ryken head softball coach Jim Sewell. “She. Comes. Through. We had her at lead­off bat­ter [at SMR] be­cause her on­base per­cent­age was off the charts. She was go­ing to get on base, you could set your clock by it.”

Augh­in­baugh her­self also picked up the win af­ter she al­lowed a run on 13 hits and struck out five dur­ing a 115-pitch af­ter­noon.

“They hit me pretty good in our con­fer­ence se­ries,” Augh­in­baugh said, re­fer­ring to a 5-4 loss to UMass on April 14, “so just to bounce back from that and end on a good note was very ex­cit­ing.”

“It was re­ally nice to see her peak at the right time,” Ford­ham head coach Brid­get Or­chard said. “You couldn’t have [writ­ten] it any bet­ter. She had her first start against [No. 10] Ari­zona [on Feb. 10] and she didn’t win that, but I think that helped her pre­pare for those mo­ments.”

Augh­in­baugh fin­ished the sea­son 18-5 with 12 com­plete games and an ERA of 2.00. She ap­peared in 32 games and in 140 in­nings al­lowed 133 hits, walked 25 and struck out 88. Op­po­nents bat­ted .241 against her.

“I think the big­gest chal­lenge I had was when I was in high school I didn’t re­ally have to place the ball as well as you do in col­lege just be­cause the com­pe­ti­tion level is ex­tremely dif­fer­ent,” said Augh­in­baugh, who throws a rise, curve, change-up and drop­ball. “But just hav­ing the mind­set that no one will beat me re­ally helps.”

“She’s the best player I ever coached,” said Sewell, who has coached kids and adults the past 30 years. “Oh my God, yes. She’s got the whole pack­age. She can field, she can catch, she can hit and my God she was lights out when it came to pitch­ing. She would just pick the bat­ters apart. She’s smart. Ev­ery­thing she does is based on what she sees and eval­u­ates. She’s not just a pitch­ing ma­chine out there. She’s do­ing her work and an­a­lyz­ing you and find­ing your weak­nesses.”

Augh­in­baugh only picked up a bat mid­way through the sea­son af­ter hav­ing surgery to re­pair a torn UCL on her throw­ing hand last May but still hit .286 with 30 hits, in­clud­ing three dou­bles and a triple. She also added 13 RBIs and scored 21 runs.

“She re­ally stepped up in big sit­u­a­tions when we needed her, espe­cially as a fresh­man,” Or­chard said. “We put her in some key roles and she re­ally ex­celled. We were hop­ing she’d come in and [con­trib­ute], but it’s al­ways a sur­prise when a fresh­man can come in and step in and fill some big shoes. When ev­ery­thing was on the line, she got bet­ter and that’s a tes­ta­ment to her per­son­al­ity and her will­ing­ness to do what­ever it takes. Her big thing is she’s a win­ner and you can tell that the big­ger the stage the bet­ter she played.”

The Rams fin­ished the sea­son 46-17 (18-5 At­lantic 10) and were 13 of 17 at home. Ford­ham was elim­i­nated by No. 21 Brigham Young Univer­sity in the NCAA’s Salt Lake City Re­gional.

The plan was for Augh­in­baugh to come in and fo­cus on her pitch­ing her fresh­man year, but when start­ing short­stop Amy Van Hoven broke her leg, Or­chard was forced to shuf­fle her lineup.

“I couldn’t tell you the last time I played a po­si­tion be­cause I al­ways pitched,” she said, “but it was re­ally fun. I en­joyed it a lot, but I had a lot to learn.”

“For her to do all three [pitch­ing, hit­ting and field­ing] for us was def­i­nitely some­thing we didn’t ex­pect her to come in and do right away, but she was so good at it,” Or­chard said. “We put her out there and she re­ally didn’t miss a beat.”

The Rams will lose six play­ers to grad­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing right-handed pitcher Lau­ren Quense, who was 22-11 this year.

“I think she’s just re­ally com­ing into her own and I think she’s go­ing to get big­ger and stronger and she’s go­ing to add more speed and more spin to her ball and re­ally be able to lo­cate her pitches,” Or­chard said. “Next year she’ll be more our ace and we’ll be able to re­fine her a lit­tle bit more. She works re­ally hard so there’s no doubt she’ll get bet­ter.”

Augh­in­baugh was in con­stant con­tact with Florida State Univer­sity, but re­luc­tantly agreed to make a visit to Ford­ham on her fa­ther, Rob’s ad­vice.

Or­chard re­called the first time she saw Augh­in­baugh pitch dur­ing a tour­na­ment in New Jer­sey.

“She was strik­ing ev­ery­body out,” she said. “She had all this move­ment, she was throw­ing a great rise­ball and ... we im­me­di­ately saw she had suc­cess on the field, but we could also tell she had de­sire. She was locked in and fo­cused and a com­peti­tor.”

“She can play any po­si­tion and play it at the very top skill-wise,” Sewell said. “Ab­so­lutely it’s a big jump [to col­lege] and [her sea­son] just seals it for me that she is the real deal. Ford­ham got a gold mine.”

PHOTO BY TOM WASICZKO/FORD­HAM UNIVER­SITY ATH­LET­ICS

Ford­ham’s Madie Augh­in­baugh, a St. Mary’s Ryken High School grad­u­ate from Port Tobacco, lays down a bunt against St. Louis Univer­sity dur­ing the At­lantic 10 Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship. The Rams went on to win the pro­gram’s fifth-straight ti­tle on Augh­in­baugh’s game-win­ning hit ver­sus UMass.

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