HARRISONBURG, Va., March 30, 2012 – After a two-game respite from conference action on Wednesday, the James Madison softball team returns to Colonial Athletic Association play this weekend as it hosts UNCW for a three-game set at Veterans Memorial Park. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon before closing the series on Sunday, also at noon.
Last week, the Dukes opened up league play with a 2-1 series win on the road at Drexel. JMU won game one 4-0 behind a two-hit shutout from freshman right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) as well as two RBIs from senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers). The Dragons rebounded to win game two, 6-0, behind a shutout from Hillary Allen before Madison closed the series with a 9-8 win in game three.
On Wednesday, JMU traveled to Blacksburg, Va., for a in-state rivalry doubleheader with Virginia Tech. Hokie starters Jasmin Harrel and Bailey Liddle each tossed three-hit shutouts to earn the sweep.
Four different Madison players are hitting over .300 this season led by freshman outfielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton). Heath is hitting .356 on the season and enters the weekend on an eight-game hitting streak. She trails only the 12-game streak posted by Burnham for the longest on the team this season. Burnham is hitting .313 and leads the conference in doubles with nine. She adds six home runs and a team-best 23 RBIs and 22 runs scored.
Junior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) and junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) are also both hitting over .300. Johnson matches Burnham with a .313 mark, adding a .392 on-base percentage while Butler is hitting .301 with a team-best 11 steals.
In the circle, the Dukes are led by Kiefer and fellow rookies Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) and Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline). The trio has combined to throw 197 out of 210 2/3 innings this year. All three have made at least 15 appearances and at least eight starts while striking out 126 batters.
As a team, JMU has posted a .964 fielding percentage. It has committed just 36 errors in 967 opportunities.
Several records and milestones are within reach this weekend for individual members of the team. Senior second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George) needs two hits to reach 100 for her career while Burnham needs nine knocks to reach the 200-hit benchmark. Burnham also needs one home run to break the school record while needing just five RBIs to break that record.
The Seahawks come into the weekend with a 6-26 overall record and are 1-2 in CAA play. Last weekend they dropped two of three to George Mason to open up conference play. On Wednesday, they were swept in a doubleheader by local rival East Carolina. Overall, they’ve dropped two straight and 15 of their last 17 games.
Senior Laura Sykes paces the offense with a .305 batting average in 59 at-bats. She’s added five runs, four RBIs and three sacrifices this season. Senior Ashley Shingleton is the team’s top power threat, supplying five doubles and three home runs to lead the team in both categories. She also leads the team with 11 runs and is tied for the team lead with eight RBIs. Freshman Jordan Critcher leads all players with 14 walks while senior Kelsey Eddinger has stolen three bases in three attempts.
Senior Amanda Davenport and freshman Casey Rowland handle almost all of the work in the circle for the Seahawks. Davenport is 5-12 with a 2.52 ERA in 128 innings pitched. She’s started 16 games and appeared in 22, throwing 13 complete games and two shutouts. Opponents are hitting .235 off the right-hander and she has 82 strikeouts against 57 walks. Rowland is 1-14 with a 5.07 ERA. She has thrown one shutout and eight complete games while striking out 74 in 80 innings pitched.
Head coach Kelly Van Houten is in her fourth season as the UNCW head coach. She has gone 41-144 in her time in Wilmington.
JMU and UNCW have met 26 times since 2003 with the Dukes holding a 22-4 lead in the all-time series. Madison is 10-2 all-time in Harrisonburg and 3-0 all-time at Veterans Memorial Park. JMU had won 16 consecutive games against UNCW before dropping the series finale of a three-game set in Wilmington a year ago.
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