After a series win over Georgia State as part of a 4-1 week, James Madison will make the one-hour trip to Charlottesville on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. game at Davenport Field against No. 5 Virginia.
JMU had lost 11 straight heading into last week before turning momentum towards the positive direction. The Dukes snapped the skid with a comeback win at Radford and followed that with a 10th-inning victory at Longwood on Wednesday. Madison dropped a tight game one against GSU, 14-12, but recovered to win again in extra innings, 9-8, and rallied with four runs in the eighth to overcome an early 5-0 deficit and defeat the Panthers 8-5.
For the first time this season, the Dukes showed fight in the late innings. JMU had been 0-19 when trailing or tied after six innings entering the week. However, the Dukes found themselves trailing or tied in all five games and emerged 4-1. Additionally, Madison had scored just 63 runs in 34 games in the seventh inning or later (1.9/game) before tallying 18 in the seventh through 10th in five games last week (3.6/game).
JMU hit .353 during the five-game week with five players hitting .391 or better. The Dukes averaged a combination of eight walks and hit batters per game for a .459 on-base percentage. Madison hit .365 during the three-game series with Georgia State, including 15 doubles while limiting the nation’s doubles leader to six.
At the front of JMU’s offensive onslaught was senior outfielder Colby Roberts. He hit .667 (12-for-18) with 15 RBIs to go with four doubles, two home runs, seen runs scored, four walks, a hit by pitch and two sacrifice flies. He’s started JMU’s last nine games after having started only eight of the previous 30. During his career-high 11-game hitting streak, he’s batting .512 with 21 RBIs after hitting .231 with one RBI in his first 10 games appearing in the lineup. He was named CAA Player of the Week as well as Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week on Monday. On Tuesday, he added National Hitter of the Week from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) to go with CollegeSportsMadness.com National Field Player of the Week.
In addition to the breakout week by Roberts, infielder Conner Brown hit .471 for the week and .636 (7-for-11) in the series against the Panthers. He went to the plate 16 times in the series and reached base in 12 of those 16 plate appearances with two singles, three doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks and a hit by pitch. The highlight of his weekend was becoming the first JMU player in 13 years to hit for the cycle when he went 4-for-4 with a walk in the opener against GSU.
On the mound, Chris Huffman showed why he is one of the top arms for the Dukes as he posted a 0.00 ERA in six innings with three saves and a win in four appearances. He earned one-inning saves by protecting two-run margins against Radford and Longwood and holding a three-run lead in the GSU finale. In Saturday’s extra-innings win over the Panthers, he entered an 8-8 game in the eighth and pitched three scoreless frames to allow the Dukes to rally for the win. He was named CAA Co-Pitcher of the Week.
Virginia enters the week at No. 5 in the country after sweeping previously No. 6 Florida State by scores of 9-2, 2-0 and 5-2 as part of an overall four-game winning streak. The Cavaliers set a program record for series attendance with 13,890 on hand for the three games, including sellouts of 4,980 in each of the last two. They have a home game with Richmond Tuesday before hosting the Dukes Wednesday.
UVA is hitting .302 as a team and boats a 2.63 team ERA while limiting opponents to a .233 batting average. Six starters are hitting .300 or better, led by Mike Papi at .376 with nine doubles and five home runs. His on-base percentage of .516 ranks just behind JMU senior Johnny Bladel with both players ranking in the top 10 in the nation. In the power department, Derek Fisher is hitting .320 with eight doubles, three triples and five home runs while Brandon Downes sits at .302 with 12 doubles, four triples and six home runs.
Virginia leads the all-time series 37-24-1 and is 12-1-1 against the Dukes over the last 14 meetings. Prior to that time, JMU had won six in a row to cut UVA’s series lead to 25-23. Last year, the Cavaliers claimed two of three meetings with another ending in a tie. The teams had a 4-4 stalemate in a neutral game during the first weekend of the season in Myrtle Beach. Virginia then won 14-6 in Harrisonburg on March 6 and 15-5 in Charlottesville on April 4.
JMU – Michael Church, Fr., RHP (4-1, 5.23 ERA)
UVA - UVA - Artie Lewicki, Jr., RHP (0-1, 13.50 ERA) or Trey Oest, Fr., RHP (5-0, 4.13 ERA)