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NO. 3 JMU OPENS VS. NO. 2 FIU FRIDAY IN CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL (Updated w/Notes)
Courtesy:JMUSports.com Release:06/02/2011
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Courtesy: JMUSports.com
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HARRISONBURG, Va., May 30, 2011 - Winners of an automatic bid out of the Colonial Athletic Association, James Madison baseball was given a No. 3 seed to the 2011 NCAA Championship and will face No. 2 Florida International on Friday at 1 p.m. at UNC's Boshamer Stadium in the opening game of the Chapel Hill Regional. 

In addition to JMU (40-17) and FIU (40-18-1), the Chapel Hill Regional also includes the tournament's overall third seed in No. 1 seed North Carolina (45-14), which will square off with No. 4 Maine on Friday at 6 p.m.  The losing teams meet at 1 p.m. Saturday and the winning teams at 6 p.m.  The remaining one-loss squads play at 1 p.m. Sunday with the winner meeting the undefeated team at 6 p.m.  If necessary, a final game will be played at 6 p.m. on Monday.

All JMU games in the Chapel Hill Regional will be presented with free audio coverage on MadiZONE.  All games after Friday will also be broadcast live on ESPN1360 WHBG in the Shenandoah Valley.  Links for live stats will also be available at JMUSports.com.

Tickets will be available through UNC's website beginning Tuesday evening or by phone at 800-722-4335 beginning Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

JMU, which owns the nation's longest active winning streak at nine games and jumped to 28th in the Collegiate Baseball national rankings on Monday, won the CAA regular season by two games to go into the tournament in Wilmington, N.C. as the top seed.  The Dukes downed each of the tournament's other three teams in succession to grab the title with a 4-0 shutout of Georgia State on Thursday, a 13-7 win over host UNC Wilmington on Friday and a 10-1 triumph over Old Dominion on Saturday.  JMU won the CAA regular season for the second straight season and the tournament for the second time in four seasons.

The Dukes, who are currently 19th nationally in winning percentage at .702) carry a potent offense into Regional play, leading the nation with 522 runs scored, three shy of the school record, and an average of 9.2 runs per game.  JMU is also first nationally in slugging percentage (.527), fifth in batting average (.321), seventh in hits (643), fourth in triples (27), fourth in home runs (78), first in RBIs (469), first in total bases (1,056), second in sacrifice flies (46) and second in steals (150).

While the offense has been consistent throughout the season, it is the recent emergence of the pitching staff that has made the Dukes winners of nine in a row overall, 13 in a row against CAA opposition and 13-2 in their last 15 games overall.  After the second game of the season, the staff ERA didn't break 6.00 until the final game of the regular season.  It has continued to drop through the CAA Championship to 5.77.  During the last 15 games, JMU's pitching staff has a 3.22 ERA and is holding opponents to a .248 batting average.

2011 NCAA Chapel Hill Regional Schedule
Friday, June 3
Game 1: # 2 FIU (40-18) vs. #3 James Madison (40-17), 1 p.m.
Game 2: #1 North Carolina (45-14) vs. #4 Maine (32-22), 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 4
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 5
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 6 p.m.
Monday, June 6
Game 7: 6 p.m. - If necessary

JMU IN NCAA REGIONALS

The Dukes advanced to their eighth NCAA Division I Regional after reaching 40 wins for the seventh time in program history.  They reached 40 for the second time (2002) in 14 seasons under head coach Spanky McFarland and will compete in their third Regional with McFarland (2002 Columbia, S.C. & 2008 Raleigh, N.C.).  Other Regional appearances came in 1980, 1981, 1983 to the College World Series, 1988 and 1995.  JMU is 8-14 all-time in NCAA Division I postseason competition.  No CAA team has won a Regional since East Carolina in 2001.

Most recently, JMU was the No. 4 seed in the 2008 Raleigh Regional and finished third.  The Dukes opened with a loss to host N.C. State 6-2, eliminated No. 3 Charlotte with a 13-12 come-from-behind victory and fell to No. 2 South Carolina on a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

JMU has faced UNC twice in NCAA Regional play, both in the 2002 Columbia Regional.  The Tar Heels opened that site with a 5-0 shutout of the Dukes.  Following a JMU win to eliminate VCU 5-2, UNC came back to win again after rallying late for a 9-7 triumph.

The Dukes have competed in postseason play at Chapel Hill once before as victories over Delaware, The Citadel, William and Mary and South Carolina vaulted JMU into its only College World Series appearance in 1983.

SCOUTING NO. 1 NORTH CAROLINA

The Regional host is ranked as high as seventh among the various national polls released on Monday, but UNC received the tournament's No. 3 overall seed in part thanks to occupying the top spot in the most recent RPI on May 24.

The Tar Heels won nine games in a row from late April to early may before dropping a series at Georgia Tech.  However, they received their RPI boost by ending the season with a three-game home sweep of previously top-ranked Virginia. 

UNC went on to drop two out of three games during pool play in the ACC Championship, losing to Miami 7-5, shutting out Wake Forest 9-0, and losing to Virginia 3-2.

As a team, the Tar Heels are batting .285 and averaging 6.9 runs per game, which ranks in the top 30 in the nation.  They are also top 50 in the nation with a 3.36 staff ERA.

Colin Moran leads the offense with a .343 average thanks to a collection that includes 19 doubles, nine home runs, 68 RBIs and a .574 slugging percentage, all numbers that lead the team.  Tommy Coyle (.317, 16 doubles, 33 RBIs) and Levi Michael (.313, 13 doubles, 48 RBIs) are also batting over .300.

The starting trio is led by Patrick Johnson, a senior right-hander with an 11-1 record, 2.56 ERA, .218 opponent average and 102 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings.  Kent Emanuel (6-1, 2.88 ERA, 74 Ks) and Chris Munnelly (6-5, 3.99 ERA, 65 1/3 IP) are the other primary starters.  Michael Morin leads the team with eight saves and has 62 strikeouts and a 4.97 ERA in 58 innings.

SCOUTING NO. 2 FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL

Like JMU, the Golden Panthers recorded their first 40-win season since 2002 and, like JMU, FIU is making its third appearance in the NCAA Regionals since 2002.  One of three NCAA teams out of the Sun Belt Conference, the Golden Panthers finished second in the SBC by a half game at 20-9 and were the runners up in the conference tournament, dropping a 7-6 decision to Arkansas-Little Rock in the title game.

Also like JMU, FIU enters the field as one of the hottest teams in the country.  The Golden Panthers have went 20-1-1 over a 22-game stretch prior to falling by the single run in the league championship game.  That allowed them to reach as high as 20th in the most recent national rankings by Baseball America.

Based on the numbers, FIU was the Sun Belt's top hitting and top pitching squad.  The offensive production actually carries similar to that of JMU, which has ranked among the best in the nation all season.  FIU is hitting .319 as a team with 427 runs scored, 137 doubles, 59 home runs and 76 steals.  All of those numbers ranked in the top 20 in the nation prior to conference tournament action.  Meanwhile the pitching staff boasts a 3.58 ERA to also sit in the top 50 nationally.

Offensively, FIU is best known among the college baseball community for its junior infielder, Garrett Wittels, who came within two games of breaking Robin Ventura's NCAA record 58-game hitting streak.  Wittels followed up his attention-grabbing sophomore season to hit .348 as a junior with 86 hits, 16 doubles and 39 RBIs. 

However, Wittels is just a piece to the high-powered Panthers' attack with five starters batting .330 or better and eight starters at .290 or better.  Pablo Bermudez is hitting .373 with 16 doubles, four home runs and a team-best 62 runs scored.  Jeremy Patton leads the way with 53 RBIs while hitting .317 with 15 doubles.

On the mound, R.J. Fondon, Phil Haig and Daniel DeSimone have formed the starting trio throughout the season.  Fondon leads the starters with a 2.76 ERA and holds a 6-5 record through 91 1/3 innings pitched.  Haig is 9-3 with a 3.27 ERA, 69 strikeouts and .248 opponent average.  DeSimone is 5-2 with a 4.24 ERA.  Kyle Fitzpatrick has made nine starts with a 72- record and 2.83 ERA.

SCOUTING NO. 3 JAMES MADISON

JMU has been recognized for its high-scoring offense since the first weekend of the season when the Dukes put up 91 runs on Bucknell in a four-game series.  Madison ranked either first or second in scoring every day from that point on and currently sits first nationally at 9.2 runs per game.  As mentioned above, the Dukes rank in the top seven nationally in 12 different offensive categories.

While the offense has been the story for much of the season, the pitching staff's ERA was over seven through two weeks of the season and still stood at 6.88 as late as April 13.  However, that high-water mark for the team's ERA came on a significant date as it corresponds with the switch of sophomore D.J. Brown from starter to closer and junior Sean Tierney from setup reliever to front-end starter. 

In the 23 games since April 13, JMU went 17-6 with a 4.16 ERA from its pitching staff.  Tierney was dominant with the change, posting a 5-0 record and 1.03 ERA while Brown was 3-1 with three saves and a 2.10 ERA.  Relievers Josh Futter (2.25 ERA) and James Weiner (2.45 ERA) also heated up down the stretch and benefitted from the newly-defined bullpen roles within the pitching staff.

To take the pitching success a step further, JMU went 13-2 over its final 15 games with a 3.22 ERA.  In their last eight games, the Dukes are 8-0 with a 1.50 ERA, the only three shutouts of the season, a school record run of 30 straight scoreless innings and just 12 earned runs allowed in 72 total innings.  The team ERA has gone down by 0.70 runs during those eight games.

CAA Player of the Year Jake Lowery, a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy given to the nation's best player as well as the Johnny Bench Award for the top catcher, has already broken program records for season total bases (187), extra-base hits (51), RBIs (83) and triples (8, tied).  He is also the second player in program history to reach 20 doubles and 20 home runs in a season. 

David Herbek has been steady at the shortstop position while being nominated for the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation's top shortstop and also joining Lowery on the Howser Trophy list. 

The April 13 date was also key for two offensive players as Johnny Bladel returned from injury to slide into the leadoff spot in the batting order.  Since that time, he hit .398 with a .473 on-base percentage and collected Most Outstanding Player honors at the CAA Championship.  First baseman Matt Tenaglia hit .422 since April 13 with a .578 slugging percentage and .485 on-base percentage. 

SCOUTING NO. 4 MAINE

Maine enters the tournament as the champion of the America East Conference after going 18-6 in the league   The Black Bears finished second to Stony Brook in the regular season before going 3-0 at the AEC Championship and posting wins of 4-3 over Binghamton, 8-1 over Stony Brook and 10-1 over Albany.  Stony Brook did not receive a postseason invitation despite its 42-12 record and 22-2 league mark.

While they carry a No. 4 seed into the Regional, the Black Bears resemble anything but a four spot given the numbers posted by the pitching staff.  It starts with ace Keith Bilodeau, who went 10-2 with five complete games and a 2.87 ERA in 84 2/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .242 batting average.

In addition, key starters Stephen Perakslis (6-4, 3.63 ERA, .230 opponent average) and Jeffrey Gibbs (7-5, 3.69 ERA, .215 opponent average) have also been strong in the rotation.  A.J. Bazdanes has a tough-luck 1-4 record but holds a respectable 4.66 ERA, 62 strikeouts, and .251 opponent average.  Shaun Coughlin has been the top reliever with 19 appearances, a 2.44 ERA and a .212 opponent average.

Offensively, Maine has a .289 team batting average.  Justin Leisenheimer leads the team with a .327 average and .573 slugging percentage while posting nine doubles and eight home runs.  Joey Martin is hitting .325 with a team-best 44 RBIs.  Michael Fransoso is the only other starter batting over .300 at .317 with 15 doubles and five home runs.  Taylor Lewis is hitting .288 with a team-best 44 runs scored and team-best 20 stolen bases.

SERIES HISTORIES

North Carolina leads the series with JMU 5-2 and has won all four meetings in the 14-year Spanky McFarland era.  The Tar Heels won a pair of games in early February to open the 2001 season at Boshamer Stadium and then won both matchups in the 2002 NCAA Columbia Regional.  The JMU victories came in 1977 and 1991, both in Chapel Hill.

JMU leads the all-time series against Florida International 5-3, though the teams have not met since 1989.  The first meeting between the teams came in the NCAA Division II Tournament with a 6-1 victory by the Dukes in 1976.  That was JMU's first-ever postseason NCAA game.

While JMU shares a football conference with Maine, the two teams have met on the diamond just twice.  The Black Bears claimed the only head-to-head contests by scores of 8-6 and 21-5 in March of 1986.

Please continue to check this article as it will be updated with Regional notes, live stats links and any other pertinent information as it becomes available.

 

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