James Madison will play postseason baseball games at its home facility for the first time in 29 years this week when the Diamond Dukes open play in the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Championship. The No. 6 seed JMU will face No. 3 seed UD at 3:30 p.m. The winner advances to Thursday’s 3:30 p.m. game against No. 2 William and Mary. The losing team has to play again at 7 p.m. against the losing team of Wednesday’s noon game between Towson and Northeastern.
JMU has been playing positive baseball of late, going 10-8 since a midseason 11-game losing streak. The Dukes won a key CAA series against Towson in the penultimate weekend and then did just enough against Delaware, taking one of three to sneak into the No. 6 seed.
The Dukes have been consistent in boasting one of the nation’s top offenses all season long. JMU ranks first in the CAA in on-base percentage (.413) but then also sits second in the league in average (.315), runs (401), hits (579), doubles (120), slugging percentage (.460) and walks (251).
JMU has been led for much of the season by Chad Carroll, who entered the year uncertain of a position but ended up grabbing the starting job in left field. He hit .393 with 14 doubles and a nation-leading eight triples. Roberts led JMU in batting for much of the season until Colby Roberts gained enough at bats to be eligible late in the year. He is hitting .395 with five home runs, which is second only to Conner Brown. Brown is batting .343 with a team-leading nine home runs to go with 12 doubles. Johnny Bladel has been an on-base machine all season and finished the regular season with a mark of .482 to go with 50 walks.
CAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY
JMU enters this week’s tournament with a 42-40 all-time record in the CAA Championship. The Dukes own two titles, going 4-0 to capture the program’s first title in 2008 followed by a 3-0 showing for the win in 2011 with Madison becoming the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since 2003. JMU did not quality for the tournament in 2012 or 2009, meaning the Dukes have won it in two of their last three tournament appearances. Delaware is the CAA team that JMU has gone the longest without facing in the tournament. The teams have met only once in CAA postseason action in UD’s first season in 2002, a 7-4 opening win for a JMU team that set a school record with 44 wins. JMU has not had a CAA Tournament appearance without at least one victory since 2003. The Dukes breezed to the title in their most recent showing in 2011, winning three games by a combined score of 27-8 (4-0 GSU, 13-7, UNCW, 10-1 ODU). JMU has not lost a CAA Tournament game since being eliminated by UNCW, 3-1, in 2010, meaning only four current players have ever experienced losing a CAA Tournament game.
FIRST HOME POSTSEASON BASEBALL IN 30 YEARS
JMU will be playing its first home postseason baseball games since hosting the ECAC Southern Division Championship each year from 1979 to 1984. The Dukes advanced from that event to the NCAA Regionals in three of those six years (‘80, ‘81, ‘83) and advanced to the College World Series in 1983 after hosting postseason games.
JMU wiggled its way into the tournament field by the smallest of margins. The Dukes endured a 10-game CAA losing streak during midseason. They rebounded to carry a lead of one and a half games into the final three-game series, thanks to a Colby Roberts walkoff home run in the Towson series finale. JMU needed just two of six games to go its way between the UNCW@Hofstra series and its own set at Delaware in order to earn a bid. However, the first four games resulted in Hofstra taking a halfgame lead on the Dukes. Hofstra then rallied from a 9-4 deficit and had the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t score a run. UNCW won the game 12-10 in 10 innings and JMU beat Delaware 11-6 to earn the final spot.