ATHENS, Ga., Feb. 7, 2014 – The James Madison softball team dropped a pair of decisions as it opened its season at the Red and Black Showcase in Athens, Ga., Friday. The Dukes fell in eight innings to North Texas, 7-1, and dropped an 11-4 decision to Winthrop in the night cap.
The Dukes fell to 0-2 to start the season. North Texas opened its season at 1-0 as did Winthrop.
In game two, Winthrop scored all 11 runs from the fifth inning on, including a five-run seventh inning. Winthrop had 16 hits, including multiple-hit performances from seven players.
Junior right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) earned the loss against the Eagles, falling to 0-1 on the year. She allowed six runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander struck out six and walked none. Freshman right-hander Kelly Wishard (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough) pitched the final 1 1/3 innings in relief. She gave up five runs on four hits and two walks.
Sutton Watson earned the win for the Eagles in a complete-game effort. She held Madison to four runs, two earned, on eight hits. The right-hander struck out two and walked one.
Offensively, the Dukes were paced by freshman center fielder Mimi Morris (Kenilworth, Ill./New Trier) who went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI. Sophomore catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) added a triple, a RBI and a run scored in three at-bats while freshman right fielder Tahli Moore (Sydney, Australia/Loreto Normanhurst College) went 1-for-3 with a run batted in.
Shortstop Naomi Stevens led the way for the Eagles, going 2-for-5 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs while right fielder Mel Andrea went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI. Third baseman Kim Ryder contributed two hits and three runs scored in four at-bats.
JMU struck first in the game, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Following two outs to start the innings, Morris laid down a bunt single to spur the rally. Field followed that with a triple and came in to score on an error by the Winthrop shortstop.
The Eagles bounced back to take the lead with four runs in the top of the fifth. Back-to-back singles by Paige Haley and Ryder started the inning before both runners moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout, left fielder McKenzi Corn reached on an infield single to plate the innings first run. Singles by Andrea, designated player Leah Young and a double by first baseman Alex White pushed the lead to 4-2 at the end of the half inning.
Madison got a run back in the bottom half of the inning. Sophomore second baseman Hannah Hayes (LaCrosse, Va./Kenston Forest) led off the inning with a double to left-center field and scored on a single by Morris.
A two-run single by Corn extend the Eagles’ advantage to 6-3 in the sixth inning before the Dukes cut into the lead again in the bottom of the sixth on a RBI single by Moore.
The seventh inning saw five runs cross the plate for Winthrop, including two on a home run by Stevens.
In game one of the day, JMU led 1-0 going into the top of the seventh inning, but gave up four home runs in the seventh and eighth innings to fall 7-1 to North Texas. The Mean Green smacked a solo shot in the seventh to force extra innings before ultimately knocking in six more runs in the eighth inning.
Sophomore pitcher Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) drew the start and pitched the first 7 1/3 innings. She limited UNT to two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings of work. The left-hander picked up the loss to drop to 0-1 on the season. Kiefer relieved Ford following North Texas’ go-ahead home run in the seventh, but struggled to find her rhythm, giving up five runs on five hits in just 1/3 inning of work. Wishard made her JMU debut in relief of Kiefer, retiring the only batter she faced.
Ashley Kirk earned the win for the Mean Green to start her season at 1-0. She limited the Dukes to one run on five hits. The right-hander struck out 10 and walked four in eight innings of work.
Five players recorded hits for Madison to pace the offense, including two freshmen recording their first career hits. Morris led of the game with a single and finished the day 1-for-4 with a single while freshman third baseman Madyson Moran (Taylor Mill, Ky./Holy Cross) went 1-for-2 with an RBI. Hayes added a double in three at-bats while Ford and Field each had a single.
UNT was paced by centerfielder Kat Strunk who went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Catcher Bryana Wade homer and walked twice in two at-bats and second baseman Brooke Foster went 2-for-4 with a home runs and a walk.
The Dukes took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-out RBI single. Moore started the frame with a walk and moved to second on a ground-out. After a second ground-out, Moran laced a single up the middle, scoring Moore from second.
The Mean Green evened the score in the top of the seventh on a one-out, solo home run by Strunk. They took the lead on a solo home run in the top of the seventh by left fielder Jackie Miller.
Things snowballed on JMU following Miller’s blast as Strunk would add to more RBIs on a single before Wade hit a two-run homer to center to increase the lead to 6-1. Foster capped the six-run eighth with a solo blast to left-center field.
The Dukes return to the field on Saturday for a pair of games. At 10 a.m. they’ll have a rematch against Winthrop before taking on tournament host No. 23/21 Georgia at 3 p.m.
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