HARRISONBURG, Va., April 12, 2013 – After splitting a doubleheader with Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the James Madison softball team continues its seven-game homestand by hosting in-state rival George Mason for a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series at Veterans Memorial Park this weekend.
JMU has won 13 straight CAA games, including a 9-0 start to this season. It is tied for first in the league with Delaware with four conference series remaining for each team. Hofstra is in second place with a 7-1 mark and hosts Delaware in Hempstead, N.Y. this weekend.
Madison stole five bases on Wednesday against Virginia Tech after coming into the weekend ranked first in the country in steals per game. The Dukes are averaging 2.87 steals per game and have stolen a school-record 109 bases in 127 attempts. They are succeeding at a 79.6-percent clip during the year.
Senior center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) leads the team with 32 thefts in 34 attempts, ranking fourth in the country in steals per game. Sophomore left fielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) is second on the squad and 76th in the nation wit 16 steals.
JMU also ranks 23rd in the nation in earned run average at 1.82 and 24th in batting average (.313). Six Dukes are hitting better than .300 on the season led by sophomore utility Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg). Mooney is hitting .387 and leads the team with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. She is three RBIs shy of tying Jenn Chavez’s (2005-08) school record for RBIs in a season. Freshman pitcher/first baseman Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) is hitting .380 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs.
In the circle, both Ford and sophomore right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) rank in the top 41 in earned run average. Kiefer is 12th in the country at 1.13 while Ford ranks 41st at 1.59. Ford also ranks 11th in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (9.7), 12th in shutouts (six), 15th in hits allowed per game (4.21) and 48th in wins (15) and strikeouts (149).
The Dukes are 6-2 at home this season with a 3-0 mark in CAA play at home. They have not lost a conference game at home since losing both ends of a doubleheader to Hofstra on April 21 of last season.
SCOUTING GEORGE MASON
The Patriots enter the weekend with a 12-27 overall record after going 3-1 in non-conference play this week. They swept a doubleheader from Hampton on Tuesday before splitting a pair of games against Maryland on Wednesday. Last weekend, Mason was swept at home in CAA play against Delaware dropping them to 2-7 in the league. Overall, the Patriots are 3-7 away from home, including a 2-6 mark in true road games.
Shortstop Brooke Blankenship paces the George Mason offense, hitting .319 with 13 doubles, one triple and two home runs. The sophomore leads the team with 28 RBIs and is tied for second with 14 runs scored. Infielder Megan Blank is hitting .250 with 19 RBIs while outfielder Julia Czarnecki leads the team with 20 runs scored. Czarnecki has stolen six bases in six attempts and outfielder Tiffany Webb leads the team with eight steals in nine attempts.
Anna Blessing is the team’s top option in the circle. She leads the team with a 1.99 ERA, but is just 1-5 in nine games started. Casey Herring has a team-best 49 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. She is 3-6 with a 3.46 ERA.
Joe Verbanic is in his ninth season as the Patriot head coach. He owns a 109-246 record with the team.
JMU and GMU have faced each other 34 times dating back to 2002 with the Dukes leading the all-time series 24-10. Madison has won seven straight in the series and 17 of the last 18. All-time Madison is 9-6 in games played in Harrisonburg and 3-0 at Veterans Memorial Park.
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