Sophomore transfer Paige Rauch has been leading the Villanova Varsity Softball team on the mound and at the plate this year. Through 30 games for the 15-15 Wildcats, she is hitting to the tune of a 0.376 average with eight home runs and 25 RBIs, pacing the team in all three categories. On the mound, Rauch has continued her dominance, posting an 8-7 record with a 2.44 ERA.
She has been able to continue her success after a strong freshman year at Fordham in which she won the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Award and was also named First-Team All-Conference as both a pitcher and second baseman.
“I’m the type of person who is always trying to get better and climb the ladder,” Rauch said. “What’s in the past is in the past, and I know I have to continuously work hard for my teammates and my coaches.”
Paige’s hard work ethic and commitment to improvement in high school was spotted by the eye of coach Bridget Orchard. Coach Orchard recruited Paige from the time she got first involved in the Conklin Raiders organization for travel ball when she was 13. Coach Orchard helped draw Paige to Fordham, a program that Orchard turned into an Atlantic 10 powerhouse during her 17 years at the helm. This past year, following the retirement of former Wildcats Coach Maria DiBernardi, Orchard transitioned to Villanova and Paige joined her.
“My relationship with Coach Orchard and the rest of the coaching staff is something that is special to me,” Rauch said. “I trust and respect them more than anyone and anything.” Further, Orchard brought Lauren Quense and Jena Cozza onto her coaching staff, two former A10 players that had completed their playing careers in 2018. Quense was Rauch’s teammate at Fordham, and Cozza was a respected rival at UMass. Rauch has been very excited to continue her relationship with both of them. “I know that they are two of the best players I’ve seen so it’s great to continue to learn from them,” Rauch said.
In regards to the transition itself, Paige highlighted how readily Villanova took her under its wing and how the coaches, teammates, professors and friends she has found along the way have “made what some may see as a stressful situation, a fun and memorable one.” Coming into the year, Paige had been very excited about Villanova due to its reputation, school spirit and atmosphere. Once she found out that Coach Orchard and Assistant Coach Luety were coming to the school, “it was a no-brainer.”
Paige has taken the transition to the Wildcats’ roster in stride, posting great numbers while also highlighting the team dynamic. The team has a lot of hustle and a hunger to win. With the new coaching staff, the team is poised for success both this year and in the future. As the team enters Big East play (they just began their Conference slate with a three game set against Seton Hall this past week), Paige believes the hard work the team has been putting in since the offseason will really shine. The team has come together and started off the year strong against an impressive schedule that featured powerhouse programs in Auburn, Wisconsin and Missouri. Their experience against tough competition and level of success in the first half of the season will push forward their Big East run.
In regards to Paige’s personal softball journey, she began playing at a young age, and softball prevailed over the other sports she played in. She played varsity softball from (8th to 10th grade) at Windsor High School before moving to Binghamton High School in 11th grade. During this time, she collected two state championships (in 8th and 11th grade) before continuing her playing career at Fordham, where she recalls her most memorable softball moment: winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship.
In front of a home crowd, the Rams picked up a 6-4 victory over top-seeded Massachusetts to secure a spot in the NCAA Regionals. “I had never felt so many emotions. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, and I’m hoping that I get to experience that again with my teammates this year,” Rauch said. Throughout her career, Rauch has been a two-way player, but, if asked to pick whether she could only pitch or hit, she would choose to be hitting. “You can’t win a game if you don’t score a run,” and hitting allows for more room for mistakes. You have three strikes to make the most of, after all.