James Madison baseball, which currently sits ninth in the conference, begins a three-game series this weekend with the Colonial Athletic Association's fifth-place team, VCU. The weekend begins with a 6:30 p.m. game Friday, another 6:30 p.m. game Saturday and concludes with Sunday's 2 p.m. finale.
Saturday's middle game will also include senior recognition prior to first pitch. Pitcher Josh Futter, outfielder Ian Haynes, pitcher/designated hitter Evan Scott and pitcher Sean Tierney will each be honored in their final seasons donning the purple and gold.
JMU has only played one game in the last week and a half, a 3-3 tie to Radford on Tuesday night of this week, as the team took a break for the semester's final examinations. In the weekend series prior to the exam break, JMU lost two out of three games in a series with George Mason. Pitching dominated the series as the offenses struggled to find rhythm. JMU was led by Patrick Toohers and Aaron Hoover, who both posted earned run averages of 0.00 and combined for 11 innings pitched. Michael Howerton also helped to contribute to JMU's weekend staff ERA of 2.00 as he pitched a career-best six innings and allowed only one earned run for his first career victory.
In the 10 games prior to the break, including the series with George Mason, JMU featured a balanced attack between pitching and batting, highlighted by a big push from freshman pitching. At the forefront has been freshman Patrick Toohers, who has pitched 16 innings during those 10 games while only allowing one earned run for an ERA of 0.56 in that time. During that stretch fellow freshmen Ben Garner, Chris Huffman, Aaron Hoover and Toohers combined to pitch 47 innings helping the team post an ERA of 5.04.
During this same 10-game stretch JMU has been led by strong batting performances from Bradley Shaban, Cole McInturff, Colby Roberts and Chad Carroll, who all posted batting averages over .300. Shaban led the way with a .394 average raising his season number to .260. McIntuff also batted well with .344 over the same time period to raise his season average to .338 and tied for 16th in the CAA.
JMU enters the weekend having won three of its last four CAA series with wins over Hofstra, Old Dominion and Northeastern while falling to George Mason last weekend. On the season JMU is now 15-29-2 with a record of 9-15 in the CAA.
VCU has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games, including winning six of its last seven to push the record to 28-21 overall and 13-14 in CAA play. During that stretch, VCU has taken two out of three games in series with Georgia State, Old Dominion and William and Mary. During this past week VCU also posted a 6-4 win over Richmond in a game where the two teams honored VCU head coach Paul Keyes, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
The Rams enter the weekend bringing with them a very balanced attack of both offense and pitching. Their batting average currently ranks third in the CAA at .287 while their pitching ranks fourth in the CAA with a 4.08 ERA for the season.
The batting is led by three players who are all batting over .300 for the season. Sophomore Joey Cujas leads the way with an impressive .382 average, good for fifth in the CAA, as well as a team-best 38 runs batted in. Cujas' teammate and fellow sophomore, Bill Cullen, is currently seventh in the CAA in batting average with a .372 average for the season and is currently second on VCU with 34 runs batted in.
As for the pitching, the 4.08 ERA the team has posted has been the result of strong pitching seasons from juniors Ryan Farrar and Blake Hauser. Farrar currently has a 3.01 ERA while throwing 80 2/3 for the Rams. Hauser on the other hand has posted a 2.22 ERA with 10 saves over 28 1/3 innings playing the role of closer. In addition to these two, senior Kyle Pelchy has also pitched well having a 3.81 ERA in 54 1/3 innings pitched on the season.
JMU leads the all-time series 56-41-1 and has won six of the last 10 games the two teams have played. In addition, JMU has won the last four regular season series between the two teams by taking two of three games in each of those series. Last season the Dukes won the series at VCU, using both their stellar batting as well as some solid pitching. In the first game the Dukes won 12-8 but then lost 4-2 in the second game before completing the series victory with a 4-1 win in the finale.
Friday, 6:30 p.m.
JMU - Patrick Toohers, Fr., RHP (2-2, 3.36 ERA)
VCU - Ryan Farrar, Jr., LHP (4-3, 3.01 ERA)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
JMU - Michael Howerton, r-Fr., RHP (1-2, 5.90 ERA)
VCU - Seth Cutler-Voltz, Sr., RHP (4-3, 4.43 ERA)
Sunday, 2 p.m.
JMU - Evan Scott, Sr., RHP (1-4, 10.08 ERA)
VCU - Kyle Haynes, Jr., RHP (3-4, 4.00 ERA)