HARRISONBURG, Va., April 25, 2013 – Winners of nine straight, the James Madison softball team travels to Hempstead, N.Y., this weekend for a showdown with defending Colonial Athletic Association champions Hofstra. The Dukes and Pride play a doubleheader at the HU Softball Stadium beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday before closing the series with a single game on Sunday, beginning at noon.
JMU holds a 2 ½ game lead over Hofstra in the CAA standing with each team having six games left to play. Madison clinches the top seed and the right to host the conference tournament with two wins over the weekend. Hofstra has hosted the CAA Championship in 10 of the 11 seasons that the CAA has sponsored Division I softball.
HU entered the week ranked No. 31 in the RPI while JMU checked in at No. 37. Both teams are receiving votes in the NFCA/USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll and each has earned wins over Top 25 opponents this season.
Madison ranks ninth in the country in earned run average (1.66) while Hofstra is right behind, ranking 21st (1.95). Both teams are in the top 25 in batting average with the Dukes holding a narrow .322 to .319 advantage.
JMU leads the country in stolen bases, averaging 2.72 per game with senior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) ranking fifth in the nation (0.83 steals per game). Six other players have stolen at least nine bases this season led by sophomore left fielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) with 18 steals in 23 attempts.
Sophomore pitcher Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) is second in the country in earned run average at 0.99. She is also ninth in walks per seven innings (0.93), 74th in shutouts (four), 80th in hits allowed (5.59 per 7 innings pitched) and 120th in wins (13). Freshman left-hander Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) is 13th in shutouts (seven) 17th in hits allowed (4.29 per seven innings), 22nd in strikeouts (8.8 per seven innings), 23rd in earned run average (1.53) and 27th in wins (19).
The Dukes come into the weekend having already broken 15 team and individual records in 2013. Four more records are within reach this weekend with the team just three home runs shy of tying the single season record. The 2007 team hit 42 home runs while this year’s iteration sits at 39.
Butler is one hit run shy of tying Katie George’s (2004-07) school mark of 226. Sophomore utility player Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) and Ford are both one home run shy of tying Ashley Burnham’s (2009-12) single second record of 13 while Ford needs 12 strikeouts to break Meredith Felts’ (2006-09) single season record (184).
The Pride 32-11 and 12-2 in CAA play after going undefeated in conference play last season. In their latest conference matchup, Hofstra dropped the second game of a three-game series against George Mason, 2-1. This week, Hofstra improved to 16-2 in April with a 10-2 win over Fordham and a 9-1 win over LIU Brooklyn.
The Pride leads the conference in several major offensive categories, including batting average (.323), home runs (48) and RBIs (225). Freshman Caryn Bailey leads the Pride with a .396 batting average and 53 hits while adding eight home runs and 35 RBIs. Outfielder Tessa Ziemba is the team’s leading slugger with 12 home runs. She is batting .333 and adds a team-best 35 runs scored. Shortstop Becca Bigler is hitting .328 with ten home runs and a team-best 37 RBIs.
In the circle, Hofstra is led by All-American pitcher Olivia Galati. The three-time CAA Pitcher of the Year has pitched 242 of Hofstra’s 278 1/3 innings this season, recording a 1.59 ERA and .188 opponent’s batting average. The senior leads the conference in wins (28), complete games (35), shutouts (13) and strikeouts (291).
The Pride is coached by Hall of Famer Bill Edwards, who in 24 seasons with the program, owns a 870-402-3 career record.
The Dukes are 6-30 all-time against the Pride. Last season, Galati shutout the Dukes 4-0 and 2-0 in rain-shortened series, allowing four hits in two games. The last win against Hofstra for the Dukes came in 2009 when JMU won 2-0 in the opening round of the CAA Championships.
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