HARRISONBURG, Va., April 16, 2013 – Having won four straight games at Veterans Memorial Park, the James Madison softball team closes out its seven-game homestand as it hosts Liberty for a 5 p.m. doubleheader on Wednesday.
JMU, which is receiving votes in the NFCA/USA Today Division I Coaches Poll, is 4-1 during its homestand after splitting a doubleheader against Virginia Tech last week and sweeping a Colonial Athletic Association series against George Mason over the weekend. Wednesday’s games against the Flames are the final non-conference games the Dukes host this season. The doubleheader is available for free on MadiZONE.
Madison enters the week with one of the top pitching staffs in the nation as it ranks 11th in the country in earned run average. Sophomore right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) is sixth in the country in ERA at 0.99. She is 11-5 with 10 complete games and four shutouts in 19 appearances. She has struck 50 and walked just 14 while limiting opponents to a .209 batting average against in 98 2/3 innings pitched. The Reigning CAA Rookie of the Year is also 10th in walks allowed per seven innings (0.99), 80th in hits allowed per seven innings (5.68) and 60th in shutouts (four).
Freshman Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) is 16-2 with a 1.56 ERA. She has established JMU rookie records for wins (16), strikeouts (153) and shutouts (six). She ranks 16th in the country in hits allowed per seven innings (4.19), 18th in strikeouts per seven innings (9.20), 32nd in ERA and 40th in wins.
In addition, sophomore Miranda Kemp (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) has a 0.46 ERA in seven relief appearance while sophomore Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline) is 1-1 with 22 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings pitched for the Dukes.
JMU received votes for the third time this season in Tuesday’s NFCA Coaches Poll. The team received four votes in the poll, ranking them tied for 36th in the country. Madison had never received votes in either major Division I poll prior to 2013. They also picked up four votes in the poll on April 2 and one vote on Feb. 26.
The Dukes have five games remaining on their scheduled against teams receiving votes in the polls. Next week, they travel to No. 5/2 Tennessee for a doubleheader in Knoxville, Tenn., before squaring off with Hofstra for a three-game CAA series in Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra picked up a single vote in this week’s poll, but had been as high as No. 20 this season.
The Flames are 19-23 on the season with an 8-10 mark in Big South play. Last weekend, Liberty won two of three games in a home series against Gardner-Webb. On Monday, the Flames dropped both games of a home doubleheader against Longwood.
The Flames offensive attack begins with lead-off hitter Katie Zavodny, who is batting a team-high .401. The junior outfielder is one of the top base stealers in the nation, ranking third with 33 stolen bases. Designated player Sammi Shivock hits .338 with a team-high 10 doubles and 33 RBIs, while catcher Kelby Allen leads the team with seven home runs.
In the circle, the Flames have a 4.90 ERA as a team and .301 batting average against. Right-handers’ Annah Jo Brittingham and Chandler Ball have pitched 235 of the Flames 275 2/3 innings this season. Brittingham holds an 8-7 record with a 4.23 ERA in 120 2/3 innings. Ball is 8-10 with a 4.78 ERA, 51 walks and 50 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings.
Liberty head coach Paul Wetmore is in his 20th season with the team, holding a 546-603-1 record as coach.
The Dukes lead the all-time series against the Flames, 10-9. The two teams last met in 2011, splitting a doubleheader at Veteran’s Memorial Park. In game one of the doubleheader JMU held on to a 4-3 win after taking the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. In game two, Liberty capped a come-from-behind win with two runs in the top of the seventh to win 9-7.
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