HARRISONBURG, Va., March 14, 2012 – After playing 11 consecutive games on the road and its first four weekends outside of Harrisonburg, the James Madison softball team returns home this week to host the JMU Days Inn Invitational. JMU is set to play host to Fordham, George Washington and Pittsburgh in the three-day, 10-game tournament at Veterans Memorial Park, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 16.
The Dukes went 2-5 on their road trip to California, sweeping a doubleheader over Santa Clara, but dropping three one-run games in the Stanford/Louisville Slugger Classic. They sit at 8-12 on the season with seven games to play before Colonial Athletic Association action starts up.
JMU ranks first in the CAA in offense with a .291 team batting average. It also ranks second or better in the conference in runs (second), hits (second), triples (second), home runs (tied second) and steals (second). Defensively, Madison has committed just 27 errors in 612 opportunities to ranks second in the conference in fielding percentage at .958. The Dukes’ pitching staff ranks fifth in the league in ERA at 3.51 and is fourth in the league in strikeouts with 91.
Madison is getting big contributions from its freshman class as three different first-year players have been named the CAA Rookie of the Week. Outfielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) is the most recent freshman to claim the accolade after hitting .409 with two runs scored, a RBI and a stolen base in seven games started. In addition, freshman designated player Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) and freshman pitcher Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) have garnered the award once each.
The Dukes other two freshmen, pitcher Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline) and outfielder Haley Widner (Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Ready) have combined to appear in 25 games, including making 21 starts.
Last week, a pair of JMU players tied school records and head into the JMU Days Inn Invitational with a chance to own those records outright. Senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) hit her 30th career home run, tying her with Julia Dominguez (2006-09) for the school record while junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) stole her 45th career base to tie Katie George’s (2004-07) school mark. Burnham also needs just two more RBIs to join Dominguez as the second player in school history to amass 100 RBIs.
Other milestones within reach this weekend include senior second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George) and junior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) needing five and seven hits, respectively, to become the 19th and 20th members of the school’s 100 career hit club.
This is the eighth time the Dukes will be hosting their own tournament. In the previous seven tournaments, the team has compiled a 23-11 record, including going 4-1 a year ago against Binghamton, St. John’s and Lehigh.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Rams come into the weekend with a 7-13 overall record after dropping a 4-3, 10-inning decision to Boston University on Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla. They won the 2011 Atlantic 10 championship after going 42-19 overall and 16-4 in conference play.
Offensively, the team is led by infielder Nicole Callahan with a .314 batting average and team-high seven doubles. She also ranks second on the team with eight runs and is fifth on the team with six RBIs. Freshman designated player Paige Ortiz is hitting .308 with two home runs and a team-high nine RBIs. Catcher Gabby Luety is has walked 14 times and sports a .377 on-base percentage. Utility player Brianna is the team’s top speed threat, stealing three bases in three attempts.
In the circle, Fordham is led by All-America right-hander Jen Mineau. She is 7-7 with 11 complete games and two shutouts in 14 games started. She has a 2.60 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .232 off the senior. Freshmen Taylor Pirone and Michele Daubman are 0-6 in 13 combined appearances.
Head coach Bridget Orchard is in her 11th season at Fordham and her 15th overall. She has a 371-241-1 record with the Rams and is 500-283-3 overall.
The Colonials are 6-12 on the season after sweeping a doubleheader against Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday. They are 4-2 at home this season, but just a combined 2-10 on the road or at neutral sites.
Four different players are hitting over .250 for George Washington, led by outfielder Autumn Taylor. Taylor has started all 18 games and is hitting .361 with six doubles, five home runs, 11 runs and 14 RBIs. Outfielder Lauren Wilson sports a .456 on-base percentage with 12 walks to go with a .315 batting average. She’s added four home runs, three doubles, a team-high 13 runs and four RBIs. Outfielder Chelsea Lenhart is hitting .271 and leads the team with seven doubles.
Right-hander Kara Clauss is the team’s top threat in the circle, going 4-7 with a 2.89 ERA. The senior has tossed five complete games and three shutouts and opponents are hitting just .252 off of her. Courtney Martin is 1-4 with a 4.82 ERA. She has struck out 12 in 24 2/3 innings pitched.
Head coach Stacey Schramm is in her second season as the coach at GW. She owns a 22-39-1 record at the school and is 135-158-3 in seven seasons as a head coach.
The Panthers are 11-6 this season, including wins over Illinois, Hofstra and Ohio State. They went 3-2 at last weekend’s Long Beach State Tournament in Lakewood, Calif., with wins over Utah State, Eastern Kentucky and UNLV.
Pittsburgh is hitting .233 as a team with a .303 on-base percentage and a .347 slugging percentage. Infielder Ciera Damon leads the team with a .323 average, adding a home run, four RBIs and a three runs scored. Catcher Holly Stevens is hitting .304 with two home runs 10 RBIs and nine runs scored. Infielder Maggie Sevilla adds a team-best 10 RBIs and is tied with Stevens for the team lead with 10 RBIs.
Freshman pitcher Savannah King leads the way in the circle, going 9-4 with a 0.79 ERA. She has thrown 10 complete games and one shutout while striking out 72 batters in 79 2/3 innings pitched. Alexa Larkin is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in seven games started.
Head coach Holly Aprile is in her fourth season as the Pittsburgh head coach. She posted winning seasons in each of her first three seasons and holds a 97-72 record.
The Dukes are 20-9 in 29 games all-time against this weekend opponents. JMU has had the most success against George Washington, going 13-2, including eight straight wins. Last season, Madison swept a doubleheader at GW.
The Dukes are 4-2 in six games against Pittsburgh with a 3-2 mark against them in Harrisonburg. Fordham has won five of the eight meetings with the Dukes, with wins in four of the last five meetings.
# # #