JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., May 6, 2008 – Freshman Turner Phelps (Roanoke, Va./Lord Botetourt) pitched seven innings of shutout relief and James Madison University overcame an early four run deficit for an 8-4 non-conference baseball victory over East Tennessee State University on Tuesday night at Cardinal Park.
JMU improved to 31-13 and salvaged a win on its three-game road swing after dropping a pair at Radford. The Dukes improved to 4-1 in night games this season. ETSU fell to 18-32 on the season.
The Buccaneers jumped on the board with three runs in the second and one in the third to grab a 4-0 lead. The Dukes answered back with one in the fourth and one in the fifth with the lead holding until JMU posted two runs each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to pull away.
Phelps silenced ETSU by allowing just four hits with six strikeouts in seven innings, at one point retiring seven in a row and also striking out the side in the eighth.
Senior Matt McGahey (Jonesborough, Tenn.) took the loss after allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits in 3 1/3 innings of relief.
Sophomore Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) went 3-for-5 with his third triple of the season, a run scored, and an RBI. Redshirt sophomore Chris Johnson (Shrewsbury, N.J./Red Bank Regional) was 2-for-3 with a double, his first career home run, and a walk. Redshirt senior Joe Lake (Elkridge, Md./Long Reach) was 2-for-4 with a run, an RBI, and a stolen base.
Junior Troy Mendez (Roswell, Ga./Roswell) was the only ETSU player with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Junior Ben Allen (Kingsport, Tenn./Dobyns-Bennett) doubled with a walk, a run, and an RBI.
After retiring the first four batters in order, JMU freshman starter Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) ran into trouble in the second with a double down the left field line and a walk. Allen then smacked a double to the wall in left center to drive in the first run of the game. Mendez cracked the third double in four batters up the hill in right that sophomore Matt Browning (Mystic, Conn./Fitch) couldn’t settle under. The hill, similar to the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park, runs the distance of the right field line. The double drove in two runs for a 3-0 Buccaneers lead. The three doubles proved to be the only extra-base hits of the game for ETSU.
In the third inning, the leadoff batter reached on a bunt single towards third base. Senior Anthony Russell (Waldorf, Md./DeMatha) then smashed a single up the hill in right center to bring the runner all the way around to score for a 4-0 ETSU lead.
The Dukes got on the board in the top of the fourth on the first career home run by Johnson over the high wall in right field. JMU then loaded the bases in the fifth with one out and got one run in on a fielder’s choice RBI groundout by redshirt sophomore Steven Caseres (New City, N.Y./St. Joseph Regional) before a popup ended the frame.
The score held until the seventh when freshman David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) led off with a high fly to shallow right that the left fielder couldn’t settle under with Herbek going to second for the double. Foltz then blasted a triple off the wall in left center to drive in one run. Lake singled just in front of the diving centerfielder to drive in Foltz and tie the score at 4-4.
ETSU got a leadoff single in the seventh and a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner. Junior Chris Rankhorn (Gallatin, Tenn.) then lined a ball to shallow center with Foltz laying out for the diving catch. With the runner expecting a hit and already rounding third base, Foltz was able to make the easy double play to end the inning.
After one out in the eighth, Johnson drilled a double off the wall in left center with Browning then lining a ball to left center that rolled through the gap to the wall for an RBI double and a 5-4 JMU lead. Browning moved to third on a groundout and came in when Herbek reached on a throwing error by the short stop, Rankhorn.
In the ninth inning, Lake led off with a single and stole second to set up an intentional walk to Caseres. With the runners moving on the pitch, a groundout by freshman McKinnon Langston (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian) put two in scoring position. Junior Brett Garner (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock) then grounded through the left side to bring in the pair of insurance runs for an 8-4 JMU advantage.
In the ninth, freshman Derek Trent (Kingsport, Tenn./Dobyns-Bennett) reached on a leadoff single before a foul flyout for the first out. Mendez then reached on a ball that Herbek lost in the lights before later being caught in a rundown for the second out. A walk and an infield single that took a bad hop and hit Lake in the face loaded the bases before a shallow flyout to center ended the game.
After the road swing, JMU will return home this weekend for a first vs. second Colonial Athletic Association series against UNC Wilmington beginning Friday at 3 p.m.