HARRISONBURG, Va., May 3, 2012 – Having already secured a bid in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association Championships, the James Madison softball team looks to clinch the overall number two seed in the tournament as it host Towson for a three-game conference series at Veterans Memorial Park this weekend. Friday’s doubleheader is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start while the team will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday, also with a 3 p.m. start.
JMU secured a bid to the upcoming CAA tournament last weekend by winning two of three games at Georgia State. The Dukes grabbed a one game lead on the Panthers heading into the final weekend of play, but both teams are locked into facing each other in the first round next week as the championship’s second and third seed.
Madison can clinch the two seed and push GSU into the three seed with either two wins over Towson. The Dukes would also clinch with any combination of a win over Towson and a George Mason win over the Panthers or by having Mason take two of three.
Hofstra has secured the tournament’s number one seed and will host next week’s championship in Hempstead, N.Y. The Pride will face whichever team wins the race for the fourth seed in the first round.
Towson currently leads the race for the final spot, holding a 1 ½ game lead over Drexel and Delaware. The Dragons and Blue Hens face each other in a key three-game series at Delaware this weekend. Towson holds the tiebreaker over Delaware, winning two of three from them while Drexel won twice against Towson to hold that tiebreaker. The Tigers clinch the four seed by winning two of three games over JMU or by having Delaware take two of three from Drexel.
This weekend’s festivities also include a recognition of the Dukes’ two graduating seniors in second baseman Caitlen Manning (Prince George, Va./Prince George) and shortstop Ashley Burnham (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) who will both be playing their final home games for JMU.
Manning is a three-year starter at second for Madison. She has appeared in 162 games, starting 148 of them, including a stretch of 92 consecutive games started at one point. She is a .257 career hitter with 61 runs and 76 RBIs. The Prince George, Va., native adds 21 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 39 walks and16 steals for JMU. Her 13 home runs ranks seventh in school history while her 30 RBIs as a junior is the seventh most in a single season by a Duke. As a sophomore, Manning was named to the CAA Championships All-Tournament team after collecting four hits and three RBIs in three games played.
Burnham is a four-year starter at shortstop for JMU, appearing and starting in 209 out of a possible 210 games. She is a .324 career hitter with 141 runs and 118 RBIs, adding 42 doubles, seven triples and 35 home runs. The senior has also walked 64 times, stolen 36 bases and owns a .956 career fielding percentage. She owns the single-season school records for home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and assists while also holding career marks for consecutive games started, doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases and assists. She also ranks in the top five in games played, games started, runs, hits, triples, walks and stolen bases. She is one of just two players in school history to be named First Team All-CAA twice and is the only player to receive NFCA All-Region honors twice. In 2010, she became the second player in school history to be named the CAA Player of the Year.
The Tigers come into the weekend on a four-game losing streak and own a 25-27 overall record and an 8-10 mark in conference play. Last weekend they were swept in a three-game series at Hofstra and on Tuesday they dropped a non-conference game to Delaware State. Prior to its skid, Towson had won five straight and seven of eight.
The Towson offense is led by a quartet of players all hitting over .288. Freshman Hailey Balk leads the way with a .358 average, including 14 doubles and a triple. She’s added 22 runs scored and 23 RBIs while walking eight times and stealing one base. Senior Erika Stasch is hitting .324 with 14 doubles, three triples and seven home runs. She is tied for second on the team with 24 runs scored and leads all players with 37 RBIs. Senior Andrea Stevenson is hitting .292 and leads the team with 27 runs scored while fellow senior Brianna Jones is hitting .288 and is the top speed threat with five steals.
In the circle, Katie Lingmai owns a 13-12 record with a 2.38 ERA in 26 games started. She has thrown 21 complete games with five shutouts. The junior has struck out 185 and is limiting her opponents to a .210 batting average against in 176 1/3 innings pitched. Missy McCormick has started 15 games and is 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA.
JMU and Towson have played each other 34 times, dating back to 2002. TU leads the series history 20-14, including winning four straight and five of the last six. Last season, Towson swept a three-game series from the Dukes in Maryland. JMU is just 5-9 all-time in games played in Harrisonburg with a 1-2 mark at Veterans Memorial Park.
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