HARRISONBURG, Va., April 6, 2012 – Having won their first two conference series of the season, the James Madison softball team continues Colonial Athletic Association play this weekend with a trip to Fairfax, Va., for a three-game series at George Mason. Saturday’s doubleheader is schedule for a noon start at the George Mason Softball Complex with the series finale set for noon on Sunday.
JMU currently sits in second in the CAA with a 5-1 league mark. It trails league-leading Hofstra (5-0) by half a game. Overall, the Dukes are 17-20 and have won five straight games.
On Wednesday, they swept a doubleheader against Norfolk State at Veterans Memorial Park, winning game one 3-2 on a walk-off single before taking the nightcap 4-1.
In game one, junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) beat out an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, driving in junior catcher Megan Shinaberry (Davie, Fla./McCarthy) for the win. Shinaberry had led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a groundout.
The Spartans had tied the score at 2-2 on a home run in the top of the seventh and had a runner on third with one out, but freshman right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac) struck out both batters she faced in relief to escape the jam. She earned the win in relief of rookie right-hander Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline) who scattered two runs on four hits in the first 6 1/3 innings of the game.
In game two, junior right-hander Cara Stecher (New Castle, Del./Caravel Academy) tossed six inning of shutout ball and senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) hit a two-run home run to pace the Dukes in the win.
The home run was the 32nd in Burnham’s career, extending her school record. The senior also set new school records for RBIs (109) and total bases (347) after entering the day tied for first in both categories. Julia Dominguez (2006-09) held the previous school record for RBIs while Katie George (2004-07) held the previous mark for total bases. With two more hits, Burnham will join George as the only players in school history with more than 200 hits.
Freshman outfielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) hit safely in both games on Wednesday to extend her hitting streak to 13 games. It is tied for the fifth-longest streak in school history and is the second-longest mark by a Madison freshman, trailing only George’s 14-game streak in 2004.
Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep also marked the 300th win as the Dukes head coach for Katie Flynn. The only coach in program history, Flynn improved to 300-272 in 11 seasons in Harrisonburg and is 460-446 in 18 seasons as a head coach overall.
SCOUTING GEORGE MASON
The Patriots are 10-26 overall, but enter the weekend in third in the CAA with a 4-2 conference record. They’ve won their first two CAA series two games to one over UNCW and Delaware. Mason had won four of seven games before dropping a doubleheader at Maryland on Wednesday. The Terrapins won game one 3-1 and took game two 6-3.
Offensively, Mason features three players hitting over .300, led by freshman Brooke Blankenship. The shortstop is hitting .370 with 11 extra-base hits, 16 runs, 17 RBIs, 11 walks and four steals. She leads the team in doubles with eight, home runs with three and RBIs. Infielder Tori Dudley has a team-best 20 runs scored and is hitting .333 with six doubles, a triple and a home run. Samantha Barney is hitting .348 while Rachel Davies adds a .269 mark with eight doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs.
In the circle, five different pitchers have started games for the Patriots and six pitchers have thrown at least 14 innings. Sophomore Stephanie Maher leads the way, going 4-6 with a 2.39 ERA in 11 games started and 22 appearances. She has five complete games and two shutouts. In conference play, she is 3-0 with a 0.60 ERA. This season she has struck out 33 in 76 innings pitched while opponents are hitting .283 off her. Casey Herring is 5-5 with a 3.47 ERA while adding 38 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings pitched.
Head coach Joe Verbanic is in his sixth season as the head coach of George Mason. He has a 94-204 career record.
The Dukes and Patriots have met 31 times since 2002 with Madison holding a 21-10 lead in the all-time series. JMU has won four straight and 14 of the last 15 against Mason, including sweeping a series in Harrisonburg a year ago. In games played in Fairfax, Madison holds a 12-3 edge in the all-time series.
In last year’s series, the Dukes swept Saturday’s action 7-1 and 7-3, but found themselves trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh in game three. With one out, Burnham launched a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Mason retired the first two hitters before junior outfielder Lori Botkin (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) hit a walk-off solo home run of the light pole in left-center field to earn the series sweep.
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