WILMINGTON, N.C., May 26, 2011 - Junior left-hander Sean Tierney (Midlothian, Va./Clover Hill) tossed a five-hit shutout to lift James Madison past Georgia State 4-0 in the first game of the 2011 Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship on Thursday afternoon at Brooks Field.
JMU, ranked 30th nationally by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, extended its winning streak to seven games and won its 11th in a row against CAA teams to improve to 38-17.
With the win, the Dukes advance to Friday's winner's bracket game at 3:30 p.m. against third-seeded host UNC Wilmington (31-26), which defeated second-seeded Old Dominion (28-25) 7-0. Georgia State dropped to 37-20 and faces ODU at noon Friday in an elimination game.
Tierney, a Third Team All-CAA honoree, limited the Panthers to five hits and struck out six while tossing JMU's first individual shutout of the season and the third overall for the Dukes in the last four games. It was the first shutout of his collegiate career and the first by a JMU pitcher since Greg Nesbitt and Travis Miller had back-to-back shutouts at home over VCU in March of 2006.
In a brisk game in two hours and two minutes with a steady wind blowing in from left field, Tierney allowed just eight base runners on five hits, two walks and a hit batter to improve to 10-1 for the season. He moved into the starting rotation in mid-April and in his five starts against CAA teams stands at 4-0 with a 0.80 ERA and .197 opponent average in 33 2/3 innings.
Four of the first five batters in the order combined for nine of JMU's 10 hits in the game. Sophomore left fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) had three hits with a double in the leadoff spot. He also had a fully laid-out dive to grab the second out of the ninth inning.
Senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) singled in two at bats, walked, was hit by a pitch and scored twice. Sophomore first baseman Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) had two hits with a run while senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) had two with a run scored. Junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) had a RBI double in the seventh to become the second player in JMU history and third in CAA history to record 20 doubles and 20 home runs (22 total) in a single season.
Second Team All-CAA right-hander Will Campbell took the loss for Georgia State, which has lost three straight CAA Tournament games since capturing the 2009 title. Campbell allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The Panthers' five hits included only one extra-base hit with a Carter Sackett double. Sackett finished with two hits on the day.
The Dukes struck first in the pitcher's duel as Herbek was hit by a pitch to extend his CAA record as the 55th time in his career to lead off the fourth. He stole second and moved to third on a single up the middle by Tenaglia. Herbek scored on a fielder's choice groundout by Foltz with GSU third baseman Brandon Williams making a diving stop to help prevent more damage.
That lead stuck until the sixth when JMU extended it. Herbek led off with a single inside the bag at third and into left field. Tenaglia singled to right and Foltz put down a bunt single to third to load the bases with no outs. Freshman designated hitter Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) hit a high sacrifice fly to center to plate one run and push Tenaglia to third. Third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin), another freshman, lifted a sacrifice fly to right to make it a 3-0 advantage.
The Dukes added a run in the seventh as Bladel and Lowery connected on consecutive doubles to make it 4-0. Lowery was then thrown out at the plate on Herbek's single.
Georgia State's two biggest threats came in the first and seventh innings. A pair of walks put two on in the first inning as Tierney tried to settle nerves in his first career championship start. However, Lowery caught Rob Lind on the back end of a double steal attempt to end the inning. The walks were the only ones of the day for Tierney.
Another defensive play cut down GSU's opportunity in the seventh. Sackett hit a one-out double to left and first baseman Theo Asher singled to put runners on the corners. However, on a one-ball, two-strike pitch, left fielder Aaron Schmitz hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
NOTES: Tierney's effort extended a run of dominant pitching by JMU down the stretch as the Dukes had a school record streak of 30 consecutive scoreless innings before allowing one run in each of the final two innings of the season finale at Northeastern... altogether, JMU has allowed two runs in the last 40 innings, three in the last 47, four in the last 51, and six in the last 57... Tierney is the eighth pitcher in JMU history to record double-digit wins in a season and the first since Ryan Reid in 2006... it was JMU's fourth shutout in CAA Tournament play (Georgia State 2006, Northeastern 2006 and UNCW 1994)... the Dukes have now shut out the Panthers in their last two tournament meetings and improved to 16-4 in the all-time series... it was JMU's first complete game by a pitcher since sophomore D.J. Brown beat VCU on March 20... it was the first tournament complete game for a Dukes pitcher since Kurt Houck went the distance in the 2008 CAA title game... Tierney's effort gave the Dukes a similar start to the 2008 tournament when Turner Phelps tossed a complete game in the opener against ODU... Lowery's double was his 50th extra-base hit of the season to extend his school record... his 82nd RBI pushed him to a tie for second in CAA history while his 180 total bases place him fourth in league laurels... JMU extended its season team records for sacrifice flies with 44 and hit batters with 81... it was JMU's fastest game of the season (2:02) of any length, matching a seven-inning game against Bucknell in the first weekend of the season... UNCW ace Daniel Cropper also fired a complete game shutout as the CAA Championship saw consecutive shutouts for just the second time in 26 years (2002)... GSU was shutout for the first time since March of 2009, a span of 167 games... after no shutouts in the first 52 games of the season and 88 games overall dating back to the 2010 season, JMU now has three in its last four games.