HARRISONBURG, Va., Apr. 5, 2013 – Ben Verlander went 3-for-5 with a home run and Josiah Burney drove in three, including an important two-run shot in the eighth, as Old Dominion opened a Colonial Athletic Association baseball series with a 7-4 win over James Madison on Friday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
ODU snapped a four-game losing streak to improve to 14-14 overall and 5-8 in the league. JMU lost its fifth in a row to drop to 14-14 overall and 6-6 in the CAA.
The Monarchs grabbed the early lead with a run in the first then continued to add runs in four additional innings, answering each attempt by the Dukes to cut into the deficit. ODU scored in efficient fashion, stranding just three runners on the bases, while JMU left 11 runners on base and was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Dean Ali earned the win to improve to 2-2 after limiting JMU to two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts. Ryan Yarbrough retired four of five batters faced to pick up his first save of the season.
Sophomore Chris Huffman (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) took the loss in his first start of the season and just the second of his collegiate career. The usual closer matched a JMU season high with nine strikeouts and allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits in a career-high 7 2/3 innings.
Verlander doubled and connected on his CAA-leading ninth home run of the season while scoring three runs. He had three of ODU’s nine hits. Burney’s only hit was the two-run homer in the eighth while adding a sacrifice fly.
Senior center fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a 1-for-3 night. He also walked and was hit by a pitch to reach base in three of five plate appearances, taking over the national lead in on-base percentage. His mark of .55147 moved just past Mike Papi of Virginia, which was idle Friday, at .55128.
Senior right fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) was 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Senior second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glenville) had a hit and two RBIs. Sophomore left fielder Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) picked up his NCAA-leading seventh triple of the season, one shy of the school season record.
ODU grabbed an early lead in the game as left fielder Josh Eldridge, the second batter, hit a first-pitch single to center. Slaton followed with a first-pitch double to right center for a quick 1-0 advantage.
The Monarchs added an unearned run in the third. Verlander led off with an infield single to the left side and moved to second when Huffman’s throw to first sailed high. A groundout pushed Verlander to third and he scored on a deep sacrifice fly to right center by Burney.
Verlander scored the third ODU run when he led off the fifth with his CAA-leading ninth home run over the high wall in right.
After JMU stranded the bases loaded in the fifth, the Dukes finally cashed in during the sixth. McInturff led off with a double to right. Carroll’s sharp hit up the middle was stopped with a great defensive play by second baseman Brian Bashara, but it moved McInturff to third. Goss followed with a groundout to the left side to score McInturff to make it 3-1.
Senior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) was hit by a pitch and Bladel singled to lead off the seventh for JMU. After junior third baseman Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) grounded out to advance both runners, junior designated hitter Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) greeted new pitcher Brandon Smith with a sacrifice fly to left to pull the Dukes within a run at 3-2.
ODU responded in the eighth as Verlander led off with a double. He moved to third with one out. After a popup, Huffman had Burney at two strikes before the lefty barreled up on a two-run home run over the fence in right for a 5-2 lead for the visitors. Third baseman Jordan Negrini singled to chase Huffman. After the change, Negrini stole second and came around to score on a single through the left side by catcher Michael Perez for a 6-2 score.
In the bottom of the inning, McInturff led off with a single and scored on the seventh triple of the season by Carroll. Goss’ RBI groundout made it 6-4. JMU kept up the pressure, loading the bases with three walks, which came on a total of 13 pitches. However, Brown hit into a fielder’s choice grounder to strand the bases loaded for 11 left on base.
Shortstop Tyler Urps drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, advanced a pair of bases on wild pitches and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bashara as ODU added an insurance run without a hit.
Game two of the series will be Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. with live video coverage free on MadiZONE.