James Madison baseball will host its second consecutive four-game weekend series against a member of the America East Conference when the Dukes open a set against Hartford on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. The series will also include a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday followed by Sunday's concluding game at 1 p.m.
After starting the season with three losses, the Dukes split four games in their previous four-game set against Binghamton last weekend. The Bearcats won the opening seven-inning game in each doubleheader before JMU rebounded to take the second game in nine innings. Most recently, JMU fell to Maryland on Wednesday, 10-5, after the Terrapins erupted for seven runs in the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie.
As a team, JMU is hitting .299 compared to .260 for its opponents while both JMU and its opponents are virtually deadlocked in ERA. The difference early in the season has been a .953 fielding percentage for Madison compared to .976 for its opponents.
Hartford is coming off of a weekend series loss to Campbell in North Carolina this past weekend to start its season off 0-4. The Hawks were outscored 46-7 in the series and hit .188 as a team while allowing the Camels to bat .357. Despite the struggles, four batters are at .300 or better for the Hawks, including Trey Stover and James Alfonso each at .333.
The pitching staff compiled an 11.40 ERA last weekend with seven pitchers allowing at least double-figure runs per nine innings. They also allowed 46 hits in the series and surrendered 15 doubles but only one home run allowed.
The Dukes hold a 4-1 series lead, but the two teams haven't played each other since 1997, when the Dukes won 7-5 at home. Overall, the Dukes have dominated the Hawks, having won the last four meetings, with a combined score of 41-9, all in the mid-1990s.
Probable Starting Pitchers
Game 1 - Friday, 4 p.m.
JMU - Patrick Toohers, So., RHP (0-2, 9.64 ERA)
In his last outing vs. Binghamton, Toohers threw just 3 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs (six earned) off seven hits, walked three and struck out one on his way to his second loss of the season. Toohers will look to rebound from a slow start to the season, having thrown just 9 1/3 innings this season and allowing his opponents to bat .350.
Hartford - Brian Hunter, Jr., RHP (0-1, 1.69 ERA)
Hunter is coming off of a tough loss to Campbell, after he threw 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs (one earned) off of four hits in his first start of the year. While hurt by errors for the unearned runs, Hunter also walked five batters and hit four in his first outing.
Game 2 - Saturday, 1 p.m. (Game 1 of Doubleheader)
JMU - Luke Drayer, r-So., LHP (1-0, 1.80 ERA)
In his first collegiate start, Drayer pitched five innings, allowing just one run off of seven hits while walking one batter and striking out three to earn the win over Binghamton.
Hartford - Sean Newcomb, So., LHP (0-0, 13.50 ERA)
Newcomb worked 3 1/3 innings of relief in one appearance last weekend at Campbell. He allowed six runs, five earned, on four hits while striking out six.
Game 3 - Saturday, 4 p.m. (Game 2 of Doubleheader)
JMU - Michael Church, Fr., RHP (0-1, 3.68 ERA)
Church made his first collegiate start last weekend against Binghamton and picked up the loss after throwing 5 1/3 innings and allowing three runs off of eight hits. He also struck out three while only walking one batter. Overall, Church has thrown 7 1/3 innings and allowed his opponents to hit .296, including a relief appearance in the Dukes' first game this year.
Hartford - Kyle Gauthier, Fr., RHP (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
Gauthier will make his first collegiate start after allowing four runs on four hits in five innings of relief last week at Campbell.
Game 4 - Sunday, 1 p.m.
JMU - Michael Howerton, r-So., RHP (1-0, 8.22 ERA)
Howerton rebounded in a big way in his last start, throwing six innings of three-hit baseball and allowing just one run while striking out two batters to earn his first victory of the season.
Hartford - Ryan Lukach, RSo., LHP (0-1, 15.00 ERA)
In his first start this year, Lukach allowed five runs off of seven hits, while walking two in just three innings of work. Lukach threw four of the team's five wild pitches on the weekend and also hit a pair of batters.