HARRISONBURG, Va., Feb. 29, 2008 – Junior Matt Townsend (Lorton, Va./Hayfield) hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to complete a comeback from a five run deficit and lift James Madison University to a 7-6 victory over the College of William & Mary in the first game of a Colonial Athletic Association series on Friday afternoon at Long Field/Mauck Stadium.
JMU improved to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the CAA. It was JMU’s second walk-off win in five games. W&M had its first setback of the season, falling to 6-1 overall and 0-1 in the CAA. The two schools had an early start on conference play, beginning one week ahead of the rest of the league.
The Tribe was in control, leading 6-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth. However, the Dukes picked up an RBI single from sophomore Mike Fabiaschi (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) and a bases-clearing three-run double from redshirt senior Joe Lake (Elkridge, Md./Long Reach) to pull within one. JMU left the tying run stranded at second base, setting the stage for the ninth.
After the Dukes held the Tribe scoreless in the ninth, redshirt junior Brett Sellers (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) hit an infield single to the short stop to get JMU started in the ninth. Townsend then smacked a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right centerfield before being mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne’s-Belfield) worked the ninth with one strikeout to improve to 2-0. Redshirt junior Kurt Houck (Gilbertsville, Pa./Boyertown) started and allowed three runs in the first before settling down to go six innings with five runs allowed on six hits with five strikeouts. Redshirt senior Trevor Kaylid (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) worked two innings with one run allowed.
Senior Pete Vernon (Fort Washington, Pa./Germantown Academy) held JMU in check for most of his 7 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs on four hits with six walks and four strikeouts while preventing JMU from putting together any threats with five pickoffs. Vernon left the game with a 6-2 lead and two runners on base. Junior Jeremy Neustifter (Arvada, Colo./McCook C.C.) entered and gave up the bases loaded double in the eighth followed by the home run in the ninth.
Sellers pinch hit to lead off the eighth and finished 2-for-2 with two runs scored for JMU. Fabiaschi went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Both had missed JMU’s previous three games with an illness that swept through the team earlier in the week. Sophomore Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) homered to left in his only official at bat and walked three times.
Junior Ben Guez (Houston, Texas/Lamar) went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and junior Mike Sheridan (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs for the Tribe. Batting second and third in the lineup, that duo had seven of William & Mary’s 10 hits in the game. Senior Greg Maliniak (Newport News, Va./Menchville) hit a solo home run.
W&M took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks in part to three hit batters in the inning. Sheridan hit an RBI single in the frame. Junior Robbie Nickle (Midlothian, Va./Clover Hill) was hit with the bases loaded. The third run came in on a double play groundout.
The Tribe added a run in the third on Sheridan’s RBI double down the left field line before JMU picked up its first hit on Foltz’s home run in the fourth.
W&M added single runs in the fifth on a Sheridan RBI double and in the eighth on Maliniak’s leadoff home run to take a 6-1 lead before JMU fought back with a four-run eighth and two in the ninth.
The two teams meet in game two of the three-game set on Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Dukes will be looking for their 1,000th victory as a Division I program.