Fresh off a three-game series victory against Northeastern last week, James Madison baseball hits the road Friday for the first of a three-game series against Old Dominion. The Dukes look to extend their three-game CAA winning streak this weekend with a 6 p.m. start time in Norfolk, which will be followed by 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
At the beginning of the season, this weekend's series stood out as one of the potential key weekends in the league race with the matchup of the two teams that met for the 2011 CAA championship. JMU and ODU entered the season picked first and third, respectively, but both have gotten off to inauspicious starts in the league race. The Monarchs (12-21, 3-9 CAA) enter the weekend tied with Northeastern for last place at 3-9. The Dukes (9-23-1, 4-11 CAA) have been in last the entire season until last weekend's home sweep of the Huskies.
However, JMU showed signs turning things around last weekend against NU. Multiple Dukes enjoyed a positive showing at the plate against Northeastern with the team ending the series with a .418 batting average. Leading the way was junior Cole McInturff, who notched 10 hits in 14 at-bats, ending the weekend with a .714 average at the plate. Senior pitcher Evan Scott and junior infielder Bradley Shaban weren't far behind, each concluding the series with a .500 average with six hits in 12 appearances at the plate. Two of Scott's hits resulted in two doubles while he capped off the series with a home run on Sunday. Sophomore infielder Conner Brown contributed with a grand slam and two doubles, bringing in eight RBIs. JMU concluded the series with 46 total hits and 12 stolen bases. The Dukes held Northeastern to a team batting average of .252. On the mound, JMU pitchers posted a 4.67 team ERA
Also benefitting the Dukes has been the recent return of junior outfielder and pitcher Johnny Bladel. After missing 27 games, Bladel contributed to the final two games with a double , two RBIs, and a .375 batting average. He and teammate Casey Goss each carry active 15-game hitting streaks into the weekend series at ODU.
Scouting Old Dominion
Like the Dukes, the Monarchs have also seen a season full of promise affected by injuries, most notably with pitcher Brett Harris being limited to 11 innings overall and two innings in league play. The relief trio of Dylan Bratton (2.04 ERA), Erick Baker (2.57 ERA) and Dean Ali (2.96 ERA) have kept the Monarchs close in most games.
Offensively, ODU has been limited to a .252 team batting average. The Monarchs feature CAA Preseason Player of the Year Josh Wright, who is hitting .284 with nine doubles, three triples and 20 RBIs. Chris Baker is hitting .283 with seven doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs. Shenandoah Valley native Josh Tutwiler is hitting .311 with a team-high 10 doubles.
JMU and ODU have maintained a competitive series over the past several years, with ODU leading JMU 54-48-1. Their most recent matchup was at the CAA Championship last May, where the Dukes clinched the title with a 10-1 victory over ODU. During the regular season, ODU took two out of three games in Harrisonburg in March.
Game 1 - Friday, 6 p.m.
JMU - Patrick Toohers, Fr., RHP (1-1, 4.04 ERA)
Toohers will be making his team-best ninth start of the season for the Dukes on Friday night. Last weekend, he earned his first career victory with four runs allowed in six innings. He has limited opponents to a .267 batting average in 35 2/3 innings.
ODU - Phil McCarthy, Sr., RHP (0-4, 7.20 ERA)
McCarthy has battled inconsistency this year and has not recorded a victory (0-4) through eight starts. He ranks second on the staff with 35 innings pitched but opponents are hitting .312 against him.
Game 2 - Saturday, 3 p.m.
JMU - Michael Howerton, r-Fr., RHP (0-2, 5.54 ERA)
Howerton made his first career start last weekend against Northeastern and earned the no decision while going five innings and allowing two runs.
ODU - Ben Tomchick, Sr., RHP (2-3, 4.67 ERA)
Tomchick possesses a dominant strikeout to walk ratio at 45 to eight entering Saturday's matchup with the Dukes. He leads the team with 44 1/3 innings on the mound and boasts a .277 opponent batting average.
Game 3 - Sunday, 1 p.m.
JMU - Evan Scott, Sr. RHP (1-3, 9.55 ERA)
Scott earned his first victory of the season last week in seven tries when he allowed six runs on six hits in five innings on Sunday.
ODU - TBA