HARRISONBURG, Va., April 20, 2012 – With just three weekends and nine games remaining on the schedule, the James Madison softball team enters the home stretch of the season this weekend as it welcomes conference-leading Hofstra to Veterans Memorial Park this weekend. Second-place JMU and first-place Hofstra are schedule to play at doubleheader at noon on Saturday before closing the series on Sunday, also at noon.
The Dukes enter the weekend with a 10-2 record in Colonial Athletic Association play, trailing the Pride by 1 ½ games. The Pride is unbeaten in league play at 11-0 with one rainout. Third-place Georgia State, JMU’s opponent next weekend, sits just one game back of Madison at 9-3.
JMU has not played since winning two of three games last weekend against Delaware in a CAA series. Before losing on Sunday, the team had won 12 straight games and nine straight in conference play.
This weekend’s action matches up the top two teams statistically in the league. Overall, JMU ranks second in hitting, fourth in pitching and first in fielding while in conference-only action, the Dukes rank second in hitting, third in pitching and first in fielding. Hofstra is the CAA’s top hitting and pitching team while ranking second in fielding percentage. In CAA-only games, it again ranks first in offense and pitching and fourth in fielding.
Madison also leads the conference in stolen bases with 67 in 81 attempts. The next closest team is Georgia State with just 42 steals in 52 attempts. If things remained the same this would mark the fourth straight season that JMU has led the conference in stolen bases.
Nationally, JMU ranks 39th in the country in stolen bases at 1.49 per game. It also ranks 39th in the nation in fielding percentages. Offensively, they rank 58th in the nation in batting average, 84th in slugging, 97th in scoring and 120th in home runs. The pitching staff ranks 103rd in the country in ERA.
Several players rank amongst the nation’s best led by junior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) and sophomore third baseman Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) each ranking in the top 11 in the toughest players to strike out. Johnson averages a strikeout once every 40 at-bats, ranking her 9th in the country while Sandy averages one ever 38.3 at-bats to rank 11th.
Senior shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) ranks in the top 75 in home runs, slugging percentage, RBIs and doubles. She is 31st in the nation in doubles per game at 0.31. She ranks 66th and 67th in RBIs (0.87 per game) and home runs (0.24), respectively and 75th in slugging percentage (.688).
Other top performers for JMU include freshman outfielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) ranking 174th in batting average (.370), freshman pitcher Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) ranking 76th in ERA (1.97) and junior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) coming in at 71st in the country in stolen bases per game (0.40).
The Pride comes into the weekend with a 26-13 overall record, including winning five straight and 22 of their last 23. On Wednesday, they came from behind to earn a 3-2 win over St. John’s while earning a 6-1 win over Fordham on Tuesday. This season, Hofstra is 9-1 in true road games, including a 6-0 mark in conference play.
Hofstra has six different players hitting over .314 led by junior pitcher/designated player Olivia Galati at .372. Galati leads the team in doubles with 10 and is tied for third in runs scored with 28. Outfielder Tessa Ziemba is hitting .350 with a team-best 35 RBIs and 10 home runs. Rachel Senatore is hitting .355 with a team-high 30 runs scored and is the top speed three with eight steals in nine attempts. Shortstop Becca Bigler is hitting .322 with nine home runs, five doubles, 24 RBIs and 29 runs scored.
In the circle, Galati and senior Erin Wade handle almost all of the pitching responsibilities. Galati is 19-5 with a 1.20 ERA. She has nine shutouts and 22 complete games in 23 games started. Opponents are hitting just .177 off the two-time CAA Pitcher of the Year and she leads the conference with 214 strikeouts in 162 2/3 innings pitched. Wade is 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 16 games stated. She has thrown 92 innings and has racked up 62 strikeouts against just 26 walks.
Bill Edwards is in his 23rd season at the helm for Hofstra. He’s compiled a 832-389-3 career record that includes winning eight CAA championships.
The Dukes and Pride have met 34 times dating back to 2002. Hofstra leads the all-time series 28-6, including winning seven straight and 11 of the last 12. Last season, HU swept a three-game series in Hempstead, winning the three games by a combined score of 30-9.
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