HARRISONBURG, Va., April 13, 2012 – Winners of 10 straight games, including seven straight conference games, the James Madison softball team welcomes Delaware to Veterans Memorial Park this weekend for a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series. The weekend’s festivities also include the softball team’s annual StrikeOut Cancer game on Saturday.
This is the 10th year that JMU has hosted a StrikeOut Cancer event. In 2011, a total of 154 teams across the country joined forces with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) to raise over $112,000. All procedes go directly to the American Cancer Society. Madison raised $3,035 a year ago and over the 10-year history of the event, it has raised over $14,500.
This year’s event will occur on Saturday during the Dukes’ doubleheader against the Blue Hens. The team will be accepting donations throughout the weekend and in addition will be holding a silent auction that includes items such as team signed balls, signed jerseys in three different colors and two home run balls autographed by the program’s all-time leader in home runs, senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Davners, Mass./Danvers).
In addition, at least one member of the JMU team will be donating her hair for a non-profit charity that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
The Dukes enter the weekend in second place in the eight-team CAA, trailing conference leader Hofstra by half a game. JMU is 22-20 overall and 8-1 in league play. The top four finishers in the conference advance to the CAA Championship which is hosted by the top seed.
During its 10-game win streak, the Dukes are hitting .354 as a team while holding their opponents to just a .187 batting average. Madison is averaging 6.50 runs per game against just 1.2 per game for its opponents.
Leading the way offensively over that stretch is junior catcher Megan Shinaberry (Davie, Fla./McCarthy). The third-year Duke is hitting .522 with five doubles, five runs and four RBIs in eight games started. She is one of four Madison regulars hitting over .400 during that stretch. Burnham adds a .464 average with nine extra-base hits, including five home runs. She’s added 13 runs, 15 RBIs, five walks and three stolen bases.
Freshman pitcher/designated Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) is hitting .440 with three doubles, a home run, six runs and seven RBIs. In the circle, she’s gone 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA. Junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) is contributing a .429 average with 10 runs and seven steals in seven attempts.
Freshman pitcher Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) has going 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA over that stretch. Opponents are hitting just .157 off the rookie with 21 strikeouts against just seven walks. That stretch includes four complete games and a shutout in five games started. Junior right-hander Cara Stecher (New Castle, Del./Caravel Academy) and freshman right-hander Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline) have combined to go 1-0 with a save in five appearances and 18 1/3 innings pitched. They’ve given up just 11 hits and two earned runs in that stretch.
The Blue Hens come into the weekend with a 9-33-1 record and sit in seventh in the CAA at 2-7. The most recently split a non-conference doubleheader at Rider on Wednesday, but have lost four of the previous five games. Against the Broncs on Wednesday, Delaware dropped the first game 4-0, but rebounded to take the nightcap, 4-1.
Freshman Jessica Grisler paces the offense with a .313 batting average, adding a team-high in doubles (eight), triples (two) and runs scored (18). She’s also walked 15 times and stolen three bases. Infielder Michelle McKinnon is hitting .279 with and is tied with Grisler for the team lead with 18 runs scored. She also has four doubles, a home run, 15 RBIs and four steals. Outfielder Lara Andrews leads the team with 18 RBIs and catcher Gina Knutson powers the offense with a team-high three home runs.
In the circle, four different pitchers have started games for Delaware, led by junior transfer Chenxi Jiao. She is 2-18 with a 3.78 ERA and eight complete games in 18 games started. Opponents are hitting .296 off the right-hander and she’s posted a 79-38 strikeout to walk ratio in 105 2/3 innings pitched. Hannah Rust is 5-6 with a 4.36 ERA adding 49 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings pitched.
Jamie Wohlbach is in her second season as the head coach of Delaware. She has a 29-66-1 record in Newark and is 83-151-1 in five seasons as a head coach overall. In her first season with the Blue Hens, Wohlbach led them to their first CAA Championship appearance since 2006.
JMU and Delaware have met 31 times since 2002 with the Dukes holding a 19-12 edge in the series. Last season however, the Blue Hens took two of three from JMU in Newark, as the team’s played three one-run games. Madison won game one 5-4, but allowed Delaware to come from behind in each of the following games to earn wins of 4-3 and 5-4. Madison is 11-4 against UD in games played in Harrisonburg, including a 2-1 mark at Veterans Memorial Park.
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