James Madison baseball will play its final regular season games this weekend in a Colonial Athletic Association series at Towson. The weekend series begins with a 3 p.m. game Thursday, another 3 p.m. game Friday and concludes with Saturday's 1 p.m. finale.
Despite dropping four of their last five league games, the Dukes enter the weekend still in the picture for a CAA Championship bid, though they face long odds. JMU currently sits 10th in the CAA with the top six earning tournament spots. UNCW, Hofstra, Delaware, George Mason and VCU have wrapped up five spots. JMU needs a sweep of Towson, an Old Dominion sweep of Georgia State, a Hofstra series win over William and Mary, as well as one win by Delaware over Northeastern.
JMU begins the weekend having won three of its last five CAA series with series wins over Hofstra, Old Dominion and Northeastern but have dropped series to George Mason and VCU. The Dukes enter with a record of 16-32-2 and 10-17 in the CAA.
JMU enters the series having lost three games in a row and four of its last six. The Dukes are coming off of a non-conference defeat to the Longwood Lancers Tuesday night, a game they lost 4-1. Prior to that, the Dukes dropped two of three games in a home weekend CAA series with VCU. Even in the midst of the losing streak, the Dukes have still shown signs of quality pitching and hitting.
The pitching performed well against the Lancers after a weekend series against VCU in which they allowed 26 earned runs and had a staff ERA of 8.67. Against Longwood, the Dukes pitching staff combined to allow only four earned runs with no pitcher going longer than 2 1/3 innings in the game. The pitching staff was led by Patrick Arnold, Josh Futter and Chris Huffman who combined for 3 2/3 innings pitched and yielded no runs and just four hits.
The Dukes will enter the weekend looking to duplicate the pitching weekend they had versus George Mason two weekends ago. Against the Patriots, the Dukes' pitching staff allowed a total of six earned runs in three games and posted a staff ERA of 2.00.
Although the team has struggled to win in the last six games the batting has still performed well. Entering the Towson series the bats are being led by Johnny Bladel and Cole McInturff who are both in the midst of six game hitting streaks. McInturff also leads the Dukes with a .351 average on the season, which is tied for 11th best in the CAA. Ty McFarland and Ian Haynes are also batting over .300 for the season with .326 and .304 averages respectively.
Towson has won just four of its last 15 games, including dropping the final two games in last weekend's CAA series with Hofstra. During the current stretch, Towson has lost four consecutive series to CAA opponents including losing two of three games to Georgia State, UNCW and Hofstra while being swept in three games by Northeastern.
Towson enters the series bringing with it a combination of struggling batting and pitching. Towson currently ranks 10th in the CAA in batting with a team average of .259 and ninth in the conference in pitching with a team ERA of 5.61. There are bright spots on both sides though.
The batting is currently being led by three players who have season averages at or above .300. Junior Kuris Voytell leads the way with a .333 average and enters the series bringing with him a six-game hitting streak. Sophomore Dominic Fratantuono is batting .302, leads the team in triples with six and is currently second on the team with 26 runs batted in. Not to be outdone is freshman Brendan Butler who is currently batting .300 on the season and leads the team with 32 RBIs.
As for the pitching, the Tigers are currently being led by three players who boast ERAs that are under 4.00. Sophomore Brandon Gonnella has the team's best ERA at 2.53 and has pitched 42 2/3 innings for Towson. The starter for Thursday's game, junior Michael Trionfo, has an ERA of 3.48 and has team highs in wins (8) and innings pitched (67 1/3). In addition, freshman Taylor Clarke has posted a 3.88 ERA over the course of 46 1/3 innings pitched this season.
JMU leads the all-time series 44-31 and has won 15 of the last 20 games the two teams have played. In addition, JMU has won the last four games in a row and, during the win streak, the Dukes have outscored Towson by an average of 6.75 runs per game. Last season JMU swept the series with Towson winning the three games by scores of 13-9, 7-3 and 11-1. This will mark the first time JMU has played at Towson in over two years dating back to March of 2009. Four of the last five series have come in Harrisonburg.
Thursday, 3 p.m.
JMU- Patrick Toohers, Fr., RHP (2-2, 3.79 ERA)
Towson- Michael Trionfo, Jr., RHP (8-3, 3.48 ERA)
Friday, 3 p.m.
JMU- Michael Howerton, r-Fr., RHP, (1-3, 6.34 ERA)
Towson- Kyle Paul, So., LHP, (2-4, 5.16 ERA)
Saturday, 1 p.m.