HARRISONBURG, Va., April 15, 2011 – In a renewal of a budding rivalry between two of the top teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, the James Madison softball team travels to Hempstead, N.Y., this weekend for a three-game conference series against Hofstra. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 10 a.m. (moved up from original 12 p.m. start time in anticipation of rain) on Saturday before closing the series with a noon game on Sunday.
Overall, JMU is 24-13 and 6-3 in Colonial Athletic Association play. The Dukes sit in third-place in the eight-team CAA with four league series remaining. Hofstra is tied with Georgia State for first at 8-1 in league play. JMU is followed by Delaware and Towson in a tie for fourth, with UNC Wilmington and George Mason in sixth and seventh, respectively. Drexel sits in eighth after going 1-8 in its first nine CAA games.
The Dukes and Pride are the only two teams to ever win the CAA Championship. Hofstra won the first seven league titles before JMU ended its run by winning the 2009 championship. In 2010, the Pride regained the top spot by sweeping through the conference tournament.
The weekend features a battle of teams with contrasting styles. Madison enters as the CAA’s top offensive team, hitting .285 while also leading the league in doubles (53), home runs (31), runs scored (197) and stolen bases (74). Hofstra leads the conference in ERA (1.75), strikeouts (290) and opponent’s batting average (.186).
The two teams rank first and second in defense with Hofstra posting a .984 fielding percentage and committing just 15 errors on the season while JMU is fielding at a .972 clip.
Junior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) enters the weekend on a season-high eight-game hitting streak. In Wednesday’s doubleheader with Liberty, she extended her school record for home runs with her 12th. It was also her fourth lead-off homer of the season, which is second in the nation.
Three other JMU starters are hitting .300 or better on the season lead by sophomore center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) at .397. Junior second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George) is hitting .308 and sophomore designated player Megan Shinaberry (Davie, Fla./McCarthy) is swinging at an even .300.
In the circle, right-handers Olivia McPherson (Liberty, N.C./Southern Alamance) and Cara Stecher (New Castle, Del./Caravel Academy) are tied for second in the CAA in wins with 10 each. McPherson is 10-6 with a 2.12 ERA. She has tossed seven complete games and three shutouts while Stecher has gone 10-1 with a 3.01 ERA.
The Pride had their 16-game winning streak snapped last Sunday in a 6-2 loss at George Mason. They have won their last 19 games at home, the third-longest streak in the nation, and have not lost a conference series at home since 1991.
Sophomore D.J. Slugh is hitting .364 with five doubles, two home runs, 11 runs scored and 10 RBIs to pace the offense. Senior Laura Valentino leads the team in doubles (seven) and RBIs (25) while fellow senior Sara Michalowski has a team-high 22 runs scored, five doubles and five home runs. Senior Krista Thorn provides the team’s speed, going 7-for-8 in steal attempts.
In the circle, sophomore Olivia Galati, the reigning CAA Pitcher and Rookie of the Year, is 16-6 with a 1.42 ERA. She has struck out a league best 198 batters in 142 2/3 innings pitched and has limited opponents to a .169 batting average against. Junior Erin Wade is 9-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 15 games started. She has won her last 12 decisions in conference play.
Head coach Bill Edwards is in his 22nd season at the helm for Hofstra. He has compiled a 791-372-3 record and has won three-straight CAA Coach of the Year awards.
Hofstra and JMU have met 21 times in the teams’ 10-year rivalry with the Pride holding a 25-6 series lead all-time. Last season, HU won all four meetings between the two teams, including a three-game sweep at Veterans Memorial Park during the regular season.
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