James Madison's Diamond Dukes will take the field for their 2012 home opener Wednesday, February 22 at 4 p.m., to face the Longwood Lancers. The game begins a stretch of 11 straight home contests at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
JMU finished with an 0-2-1 record in South Carolina this past weekend at the Caravelle Resort Tournament. The Dukes took an early loss to Coastal Carolina with a 7-1 setback. The team suffered a second loss the following day, 8-5, against Boston College at Watson Stadium. On the last day of the tournament JMU finished with a tie vs. No. 17 Virginia with a 4-4 score. Both teams got on the board in the eighth inning, but were cut short when the game was called due to steady rain.
Longwood was also busy on the diamond over the past weekend as LU took on Iona College at home at Charles Buddy Bolding Stadium in Farmville. The Lancers won their opening game to Iona with an 8-2 victory. On Saturday, both teams took the field for a doubleheader where the Lancers were able to pull out the win, 6-5, in the morning game. However they dropped the second game to Iona 10-4 in the evening.
Despite a long weekend for the Dukes, JMU was once again voted as top contenders to repeat as Colonial Athletic Association Champions. Over the past weekend junior Johnny Bladel extended his hitting streak to 12 games, batting .400 with three walks. He climbed to a tie for sixth in program history with a .457 career on-base percentage. Junior Bradley Shaban hit .500 with a double, four RBIs, two walks, a hit by pitch, a steal and a .636 on-base percentage.
Longwood finished its 2011 season with a record of 28-18 and opened this season with 13 returning lettermen. The roster consists of three veteran seniors 1B Robby Newman, OF Dustin Sollars and RHP Matt Gwaltney. Newman started 43 of the 45 games last season and hit a .308 with four home runs. Gwaltney accumulated a 5-6 record on the mound and is predicted to make a big impact for the team with his excellent control and overall pitching. The three seniors will serve as tri-captains along with sophomore SS Matt Dickason.
JMU and Longwood have faced each other in 19 games since 1982. JMU has gone 12-7 in those games with the most recent one being in March of 2011. The Dukes, however, have lost the last two games against the Lancers, both during the 2011 season. The first loss was away in Farmville with a score of 9-8 with the most recent loss later at JMU 6-2.
JMU- Ben Garner, Fr., RHP (First JMU appearance)
This will be Garners first career outing on the mound for the JMU Dukes. Garner is a freshman from Burke, Va., where he played for head coach Billy Emerson at Paul VI Catholic High School. In 2010 Garner had a 2.35 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. He was named the team's Player and Pitcher of the Year while also earning WCAC First Team All-Conference. Garner is the younger brother of former JMU starting catcher Brett Garner (2006-10).
Longwood- Bobby Shelton, Jr., LHP, (1-2, 5.16 ERA)
Shelton is a three-year varsity letter winner from Forest, Va. He made 11 appearances in the 2011 season with two starts. He went for a three game stretch where he maintained 4.0 scoreless innings (0.00 ERA) and had five strikeouts. He went for a total of 22 2/3 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts (11.29/nine innings) in the 2011 season.