HARRISONBURG, Va., March 22, 2012 – Having played its first 27 games of the season against non-conference foes, the James Madison softball team is set to begin Colonial Athletic Association play this weekend in a three-game series against Drexel. Saturday’s series opener is schedule for 4 p.m. at the Drexel Softball Complex in Philadelphia, Pa.
The Dukes enter conference play with a 10-17 record after dropping both ends of a doubleheader at Longwood on Wednesday. This season JMU is 3-3 in true road games and 8-12 overall away from home.
Last season, Madison went 8-12 in conference play and finished fifth in league play. The team started CAA action at 5-1, but struggled with injuries down the stretch to miss out on the final spot in the conference championships by one game.
The 2012 version of the Dukes return six players that hit over .275 in conference play, including junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) who hit .413 with 13 runs and 12 RBIs. She added four extra-base hits, three walks and three steals while committing just one error in the field.
Also returning after solid seasons in the CAA a year ago are senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers), senior second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George), sophomore third baseman Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt), junior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) and junior outfielder Lori Botkin (Manassas, Va./Osbourn). Sandy hit .345 with three doubles, eight runs and six RBIs while Manning hit .328 with eight doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs. Burnham walked a team-high 13 times and posted a .447 on-base percentage to go with a .323 batting average while Johnson hit .317 with three home runs and eight RBIs. Botkin led all players in doubles in CAA play with nine and hit .275 and drove in seven.
Three players, Burnham, Sandy and Butler, were named to All-CAA teams with Burnham and Sandy making the First Team and Butler claiming second team honors.
In her 10 seasons as head coach, Katie Flynn’s Dukes have gone 101-85 in CAA play and have qualified for the conference tournament seven times. In 2009 the team won the first conference championship in program history and advanced to the Knoxville Regional of the NCAA tournament.
The Dragons enter the weekend with a 9-11 overall record after winning three of four at last weekend’s Hampton Inn Campbell Stampede Tournament in Buies Creek, N.C. They are 0-1 at home this season, having dropped their only game at the Drexel Softball Complex to Georgetown, 1-0, on March 14.
Offensively, the team is hitting .253 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .364 slugging percentage. Three players are hitting over .300 lead by First Team All-CAA honoree Paige Collings. Collings is hitting .362 with six doubles and three home runs. She’s added 11 runs scored, 19 RBIs, 10 walks and a stolen base. Outfielder Comfort Ahonkai adds a .318 batting average with eight runs, five RBIs and three steals while infielder Jenn Reading is batting .315 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Infielder Devon Metcalf is the team’s top speed threat, stealing seven bases in eight attempts this season.
In the circle, the primary pitching load has been carried by right-handers Hillary Allen and Shelby Taylor. Allen is 5-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 15 appearances. She is holding opponents to a .288 batting average against and has struck out 42 in 55 innings pitched. Taylor is 4-5 and leads the team with a 3.50 ERA. She has posted 35 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched and opponents are hitting .272 off the sophomore.
Head coach Kim Camara is in her sixth season as the Dragons head coach and has posted a 104-113 career record at the school.
JMU and Drexel have met 32 times dating back to 2002 with JMU holding a 24-8 all-time lead in the series. The Dukes are 8-7 all-time in Philadelphia, going 2-1 in their last meeting at Drexel in 2010. Madison has won nine of the last 11 meetings in the series. In 2011, JMU won two of three from the Dragons in Harrisonburg on the final weekend of the regular season.
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