James Madison baseball wraps up its unique three-game set with Virginia as the Dukes visit Charlottesville for a 6 p.m. start Wednesday evening at Davenport Field.
The Dukes and Cavaliers will meet for the third time in a season for just the third time in the 40-year history of the series. Both teams opened the season in the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach and played to a 4-4 tie in the third game of the weekend. Virginia also defeated JMU 14-6 on March 6 in Harrisonburg.
For the Dukes, Wednesday's game presents an opportunity to end a lengthy downturn that began with the last meeting in March. The setback to the Cavaliers at Eagle Field started the current stretch of losing 16 of the last 17 games. As a result, JMU carries a 6-21-1 overall record into Davenport Field to face 18-10-1 Virginia. The Cavaliers are ranked 29th nationally by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
JMU had a three-game home stand this past weekend versus Delaware with the Dukes falling short in all three games. On Friday and Sunday, the Dukes lost both games by two runs with the scores of 6-4 and 7-5, respectively. Saturday's matchup was a tight one until Delaware busted the game open in the seventh inning with five runs on five hits. An attempt at a rally in the ninth was cut short as the Dukes fell 10-7 for their 13th loss of the season by three runs or less.
Last week, JMU was led offensively by its transfer newcomers in junior second baseman Casey Goss and junior outfielder Colby Roberts. Goss hit .563 with multiple hits in his last eight games and scored five runs in the past four games. Goss is now leading the team with a .330 batting average and has ten-game hitting streak. Roberts hit .412 to run his hitting streak to nine games.
JMU has struggled in the past seven games to take advantage of run-scoring opportunities by stranding 78 runners on bases (11.1 per game) and has hit only .221 with runners in scoring position.
The Dukes have come to rely heavily on freshmen arms as the season progresses as they have accounted for 57 percent of innings pitched this season. Over the past two weeks, freshmen have pitched 73 percent of the innings the Dukes have played including 27 of 36 innings this past week.
The Cavaliers are returning home after a three-game conference series at No. 9 North Carolina State this past weekend. UVA lost the series two games to one with a combined score of 14-12. Freshman Derek Fisher hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning of Saturday's game, and then junior Chris Taylor had a go-head RBI in the eighth for the Cavaliers. UVA added another run in the ninth inning to win by the final score of 5-2. In Sunday's finale, UVA scored three runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead from the Wolfpack only for N.C. State to respond with two runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth to win 7-6.
At the plate this season, UVA is being led by seniors Jared King and Keith Werman. King is batting .363 this season with 27 RBIs and 10 stolen bags. Werman has been hot as of late as he has a 13-game hitting streak and is batting .342 with 14 RBIs. As a team, the Cavaliers are hitting .314 on the season while their opponents are hitting .250.
Out of the bullpen, senior right-hander Justin Thompson has made 16 appearances this season and has posted a 2.14 ERA while accumulating four saves for the Cavs. He has filled the void left by Branden Kline last season, who now is in the Cavaliers' starting rotation.
Virginia leads the all-time series versus the Dukes 36-24-1. JMU has already faced the Cavaliers twice this season resulting in a 4-4 tie and 14-6 win in Harrisonburg on March 6,, 2012. In the last meeting, freshman outfielder Mike Papi went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs. Also freshman outfielder Brandon Downes contributed with four RBIs while going 2-for-5.
JMU - Nick Slogik, Jr., RHP (0-3, 9.77 ERA)
Slogik has made 12 appearances this season including one start. In his last start versus Liberty, he pitched two innings while surrendering two earned runs on one hit. He will look to bounce back in his second start of the season.
Virginia - Kyle Crockett, So., LHP (1-2, 4.58 ERA)
Crockett has appeared in three of Virginia last five games. He is second on the Virginia staff with 14 appearances but will be making his first start of the season. Last week, he allowed one run to N.C. State in the eighth inning on Sunday, retired both batters faced in Saturday's 5-2 win for the Cavaliers and retired all five batters faced in an 8-0 shutout of Towson on Tuesday.