James Madison baseball will play its home opener hosting the Longwood Lancers on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park. The game begins a span of 18 of the next 19 games at home for the Diamond Dukes.
In the first of two matchups this season, both squads will seek their first win with JMU suffering a pair of one-run losses at No. 35 Coastal Carolina over the weekend while Longwood had its series against Saint Peter's canceled. Sophomore left-hander Ben Garner will take the hill for the Dukes against veteran senior right-hander Kyler Morgan of Longwood.
During the opening weekend in South Carolina, CCU took the opener on Friday, 4-3, before Saturday's game was cancelled due to inclement weather. JMU had a ninth-inning rally for five runs in Sunday's contest, but it wasn't enough as Coastal came back to win in the bottom of the ninth with the aid of JMU fielding miscues.
Senior shortstop Casey Goss had a great weekend, batting a combined 4-for-8 (.500) over the two games with three RBIs and two runs scored. Also hitting over .300 was junior first baseman Matt Tenaglia (.375) and senior left fielder Colby Roberts (.333) who also hit an RBI triple in Friday's 4-3 loss.
In the two-game series, the starting pitchers couldn't find a groove, allowing a combined 10 runs. The relievers were able to stand their ground and keep the games close, pitching a combined 8 2/3 innings, allowing just two unearned runs on two hits.
JMU dropped its season opener for the eighth time in nine years with each of the last three losses (2010, 2012, 2013) coming against the Chanticleers. However, the Dukes will aim for their first straight win in a home opener while playing Longwood in the season's first home game for the second straight year.
Longwood enters the game with a 0-0 record after their weekend series with Saint Peter's was cancelled due to inclement weather. Thirty-five year veteran head coach Buddy Bolding enters his last season as head coach for the Lancers returning six position players and six pitchers among his 13 returning lettermen. Longwood, which finished last season at 27-21, looks to start off on the right foot as the newest member of the Big South Conference.
Three of Longwood's returning lettermen include senior first baseman Justin Lacy, junior catcher Scott Burkett and junior shortstop Matt Dickason, who all played for and were All-Stars in the Valley League over the summer. Lacy enters his final season with a career batting average of .329, and has hit 16 home runs and 83 RBIs over his three-year career. Burkett has also had a stellar career so far, with a career batting average of .311, with 10 home runs and 69 RBIs.
As for the pitching, the Lancers will return senior right-hander Kyler Morgan, who finished last season with a 6-6 record and 3.87 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 74.1 innings of work. Longwood will also look to sophomore Aaron Myers to continue his solid work from the mound, as he finished last season with a 1-0 record and 3.38 ERA, while picking up five saves and striking out 48 batters in 45.1 innings of work.
JMU leads the all-time series 13-8. The Dukes won the first seven games in the series but has claimed just six of the last 14 meetings. In the most recent meeting last season in Farmville, Longwood left fielder Robby Newman hit a pair of home runs while five Longwood pitchers combined to limit James Madison to six hits in the 4-1 loss for the Dukes.
Wednesday, 4 p.m.
JMU's Ben Garner (So., LHP) and LU's Kyler Morgan (Sr., RHP) will each be making their season debuts in Wednesday's game.