HARRISONBURG, Va., March 27, 2012 – After a successful start to Colonial Athletic Association play with a series victory at Drexel last weekend, the James Madison softball team concludes its seven-game road trip on Wednesday with a doubleheader at Virginia Tech. The non-conference twin bill is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start at the Tech Softball Park in Blacksburg, Va.
Last weekend, JMU went 2-1 in a three-game series at Drexel. It won the opener 4-0 behind a two-hit shutout from freshman right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) and three hits and two runs from freshman left fielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton). Heath was named the CAA Rookie of the Week on Monday after hitting .467 (7-for-15) with four runs scored.
Madison has had a Rookie of the Week honoree in five of the seven weeks this season. Three different players have earned the accolades for the Dukes.
The Dragons rebounded to win game two 6-0 before JMU used some early offense to claim the rubber match 9-8. The Dukes led 8-0 and 9-1 in that game, but needed a strikeout from junior reliever Cara Stecher (New Castle, Del./Caravel Academy) with the tying run on second in the bottom of the seventh to hold off a furious rally.
This is the fourth consecutive season JMU has gotten off to a 2-1 start in conference play, winning two of three from UNCW in 2011, George Mason in 2010 and Delaware in 2009.
On Sunday, junior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) collected three hits, making her the 18th player in school history to reach the century mark. She joins teammates senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) and junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) as current members of the 100-hit club. Senior second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George) should join them shortly, needing just two more hits for 100 while Burnham is nine hits shy of become just the second player in school history to amass 200 hits.
The NCAA released the first look at the 2012 Ratings Percent Index (RPI) on Monday. Madison ranks third out of the eight-team CAA, trailing only preseason conference co-favorites Georgia State and Hofstra.
SCOUTING VIRGINIA TECH
The Hokies are 22-12 on the season and 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They are coming off a two-game sweep over North Carolina State over the weekend and have won four straight and five of their last six games. They are 4-2 at home this season, including a doubleheader sweep over Cornell last Tuesday.
VT offense is anchored by five players hitting better than .275 this season. The team is paced by freshman outfielder Lauren Gaskill who is hitting .300 and leads the team in hits (30), doubles (6), stolen bases (13-for-14), and runs (25) and is second on the team in on-base percentage (.431), slugging percentage (.420), and RBIs (19). Junior first baseman Courtney Liddle has a team-best .310 batting average and adds three home runs, 19 RBIs. She leads the team in slugging percentage (.460) and on-base percentage (.483).
Junior Jasmin Harrell and junior freshman Bailey Liddle do a majority of the heavy lifting in the circle for the Hokies. Harrell is 12-8 with a 1.88 ERA in 18 games started this season. She has 16 complete games and four shutouts this season and adds 105 strikeouts and a .212 batting average against in 130 innings pitched. Liddle is 7-3 and made 11 starts with four complete games and two shutouts. She’s posted a 2.53 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings pitched.
Scot Thomas is in his 17th season as the head coach in Blacksburg. He’s posted a 589-400 career record.
JMU and Virginia Tech have met seven times in their series history, but have not played since 2005. The Hokies lead the all-time series 6-1, including a 4-0 record in Blacksburg. They have won the last four meetings between the team. JMU lone win in the series came in 2003 in a doubleheader in Harrisonburg. The Dukes won 7-4 in game two of the twin bill.
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