James Madison will host its final home Colonial Athletic Association series of the season when the Dukes welcome Towson for three games this weekend at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park. Friday’s opener will be at 6:30 p.m. with free audio coverage on MadiZONE. Saturday’s senior night will occur at 6:30 as well with free video offered while Sunday’s 2 p.m. finale will also have MadiZONE video.
JMU (20-25, 8-12 CAA) enters the weekend in eighth place in the standings but in sixth among the seven teams eligible to claim one of the six CAA Tournament berths. Meanwhile, Towson (22-25, 11-10) is sixth overall and fourth among tournament teams. The Dukes sit a half-game ahead of Hofstra (23-24, 8-13) in the standings with the Pride facing a road series at Georgia State. A Madison series win would help to solidify its spot in the standings while a sweep of the Tigers could vault the Dukes to as high as fourth heading into the final weekend at Delaware (30-17, 12-9).
The Dukes continue to boast one of the nation’s more productive offenses, ranking in the top 10 nationally out of 296 squads in average (.318), scoring (7.7 runs/game), doubles per game (2.28), triples per game (0.53) and on-base percentage (.413).
The CAA as a whole contains several of the nation’s higher-achieving offenses as Georgia State (.322) and Delaware (.314) join JMU among the top seven team batting averages in the nation. Meanwhile, Towson (2.28) joins JMU to give the league four of the country’s top nine teams in terms of producing doubles.
Since bouncing back from a midseason losing skid, JMU has hit .313 as a team over the last 11 games with significant offensive performances from four players. Senior Colby Roberts is batting .537 (22-for-41) over those 11 games with a team-best 20 RBIs and a .604 on-base percentage. Junior Conner Brown has three of his team-best six home runs over that stretch while hitting .400 with 12 RBIs. Cole McInturff is batting .371 with two triples while Chad Carroll is .348 over those 11 games with five doubles and one triple, boosting his national-leading total in three-baggers to eight.
On the mound, the Dukes have received dominant performances of late from sophomore closer Chris Huffman. The right-hander is 2-0 with three saves and a 0.00 ERA over the last 11 games. Opponents are batting .189 in a total of 12 1/3 innings against him during that stretch. Freshman J.T. Root has also emerged in the bullpen, posting a 3.86 ERA while allowing a measly three hits in seven innings during that same timeframe.
The Tigers enter the weekend ranked sixth in the CAA in both batting (.285) and pitching (4.65 ERA). Towson is also first in the league with a .970 fielding percentage. Most recently, the Tigers dropped three games at Georgia State last weekend by scores of 12-11, 6-4 and 8-3. Covering the last 11 games, the Tigers are 3-8, though two of the wins came in a key home series victory over UNCW.
Peter Bowles paces the offense with a .359 average, including 13 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBIs. Dominic Fratantuono is batting .328 with 14 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 38 RBIs. Kurt Wertz leads the way in terms of overall extra-base hits with 11 doubles, six triples and seven home runs go to with a team-best 48 RBIs while batting .311. Andrew Parker contributes 14 doubles and six home runs in the power department.
JMU leads the all-time series 44-34 though the Tigers claimed three victories at Towson last year in the final series of the season. The Dukes had won four in a row before that as part of an overall stretch of winning 15 out of 20 matchups between the teams dating back to 2008. In a scheduling quirk, the two teams will be meeting in Harrisonburg for the third time in four years and the fifth time in seven years.
Friday, May 10, 6:30 p.m.
JMU – Michael Howerton, r-So., RHP (3-3, 5.86 ERA)
TU – Mike Volpe, Sr., RHP (5-3, 3.80 ERA)
Saturday, May 11, 6:30 p.m.
JMU – Johnny Bladel, Sr., RHP (0-0, 8.46 ERA)
TU – Paul Beers, So., RHP (1-5, 4.25 ERA)
Sunday, May 12, 2 p.m.
JMU – Patrick Toohers, So., RHP (2-8, 9.00 ERA)
TU – *Brandon Gonnella, Jr., RHP (4-4, 4.77 ERA)