HARRISONBURG, Va., March 23, 2010 - Redshirt junior first baseman Trevor Knight's (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's-Belfield) three-run double broke a 2-2 tie as part of a five-run seventh inning to lift James Madison to a 6-2 baseball victory over Maryland on Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Park.
JMU improved to 8-10 on the season, 4-2 on its current seven-game home stand, and 5-2 in its new ballpark. Maryland fell to 8-12 for the season.
Head coach Spanky McFarland commented on the win, "I didn't think either team played exceptionally well. It's hard to say whether both teams pitched well or both teams didn't hit well. Either way, we just found a way to win. I thought it was one of those games that I knew at some point we would break through."
Maryland led 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh when JMU loaded the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, freshman center fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) singled to left to plate the first run. Knight then came up with the big hit, a double that bounced off the wall in right center, clearing the bases. Senior designated hitter Matt Browning (Mystic, Conn./Fitch) added an RBI single to complete the five-run rally.
Junior Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) earned the victory in relief, improving to 2-0 with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings to lower his season ERA to 0.55. He entered with two runners on and one out in the seventh and preserved the 2-1 deficit to set the stage for the JMU outburst in the bottom of the inning.
It was a calculated move that paid off for McFarland to go to his closer in the seventh. He noted, "I thought having Munson in would keep it close. If it was 3-2 game still in the ninth, I would have left him in to finish and tried to go for the win. But once we expanded it to a four-run lead, I thought Wiener's been throwing well so we thought we'd try and save Kevin so he's available for VMI [Wednesday]."
Redshirt senior Jason Kuhn (Stafford, Va./Brooke Point) was solid for the second straight start, limiting Maryland to two runs on five hits through 4 2/3 innings. He matched his career high with three strikeouts.
McFarland acknowledged the second straight effective start by the left-hander, "Second one in a row that I thought he did a good job. He got in a little trouble there in the fifth when he hit a guy with his curveball. But he kept us in it. I thought the umpire's zone was huge, which helped both pitchers. I thought we made a nice adjustment to it though."
Starter Eric Potter dropped to 1-3 with the loss for Maryland. He held JMU scoreless until the sixth and finished with three runs allowed on five hits in six innings with six strikeouts.
Knight led the Dukes for the game, going 2-for-3 with two runs, three RBIs, and a walk. Redshirt senior catcher Brett Garner (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock) also went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored, and a walk.
Left fielder Brandon Padula and shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez each had two hits with a double for Maryland. Padula, Maryland's leading hitter, finished the game with a .493 average on the season.
The game was scoreless until the fourth when Rodriguez led off with a fly ball lifted to left field that senior Kent Burford (Waynesboro, Va./Stuarts Draft) lost in the lights for a double. Rodriguez stole third and scored on a double to left by Padula for the 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, third baseman Matthew Murakami led off with a hit by pitch. He was bunted to second with one out and scored on a two-out single through the left side by Poutier for a 2-0 lead.
JMU put its first run on the board in the sixth without the aid of a hit. Knight drew an eight-pitch walk and moved to second on a groundout. Junior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) then lifted a fly ball to the warning track in center with Matt Marquis making the catch while falling backwards. Knight alertly took off on a full sprint and scored all the way from second to give Herbek the sacrifice fly.
Scoring on a sacrifice fly from second base may be unusual, but not unheard at JMU. McFarland commented, "We did that three or four times when Rich Thompson and T Riley were here in 2000. Guys hit the ball to center field to the deepest part at 400 feet, and those two guys were so fast that they could score. The fact that Trevor Knight did it was interesting."
Speed was again a major factor in the big seventh-inning rally. After a leadoff walk by Garner, a pair of hustle plays allowed JMU to load the bases. Sophomore pinch hitter Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) outraced a bunt attempt for a single, and another bunt attempt by senior Kent Burford (Waynesboro, Va./Stuarts Draft) resulted in a high throw that pulled the first baseman off the bag with Burford's speed allowing him to reach safely before the first baseman landed. Those plays loaded the bases with nobody out to set the scene for the three big RBI hits by Bladel, Knight, and Browning.
McFarland felt those two speed plays were critical to set the stage. He commented, "We did some nice things there. Haynes came off the bench and with him, he is so fast and such a good bunter. We thought that if he can get it down, he'll either beat it out or they'll just bobble it a little bit and he'll be safe. Burford did a good job with the next one so that was also key. We just executed. There have been some games were we haven't done the little things like that. That was huge."
JMU will close its seven-game home set on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. by welcoming No. 28 VMI. The Keydets are 18-2 on the season and will be playing their first in-state opponent of the 2010 campaign.
NOTES: The sacrifice fly by Herbek was his fourth consecutive game with a sac fly... he already owns the JMU season record of seven, which he set last season.