JMU roundup: Dukes fall in softball NCAA regionals

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

LEXINGTON, Ky., – DePaul shortstop Allie Braden hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning and left-handed pitcher Kirsten Verdun stranded the tying run on base in the top of the seventh to lift the Blue Demons to a 4-3 win over the James Madison softball team in an elimination game of the NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional, Saturday.

The Dukes season comes to a close with a 45-15 record, a school record for wins and the fewest losses to end a campaign.

Verdun earned the win in the circle for the Blue Demons, her second of the day, to improve to 32-6 overall. She gave up three runs, one earned, on seven hits. The left-hander struck out four and walked two.

Junior pitcher Heather Kiefer took the loss to finish her campaign at 20-8. She allowed four runs, only two of which were earned, on eight hits. The Second Team All-CAA selection struck out one and did not walk a batter. Sophomore left-hander Jailyn Ford allowed two hits in an inning of relief.

Braden led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 with a triple, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. First baseman Mary Connolly went 2-for-4 with a RBI while center fielder Gena Lenti had two hits and a run scored in three at-bats.

Leading the offense for the Dukes was senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy with two hits in three plate appearances. Senior first baseman Cassidy Clayton doubled in three trips to the plate and freshman left fielder Tahli Moore finished her season with a 2-for-3 showing, including a double.

The Blue Demons opened the scoring in the bottom of the first as Braden pulled a ball down the right-field line for a triple. She game in to score on Connolly’s single back up the middle.

The game remained a one-score contest until Braden drove in two more runs with her third home run of the season. A two-out error by the Dukes extended the inning allowing Braden to pull a fly ball right down the line and wrap it around the foul pole in right for the two-run blast.

The Dukes got a run back in the fifth inning. Freshman right fielder Taylor Newton ignited the frame with a lead-off single back up the middle. She moved to third on a double to center by Clayton and came in to score on a sacrifice fly by senior pinch hitter Catherine Clavin.

Two more runs came in for Madison to tie the score in the sixth as it took advantage of three DePaul fielding errors. Ford worked a one-out walk and moved to second on a throwing error by the Blue Demon third baseman. A fielder’s choice put runners on the corners before another throwing error by DePaul allowed Ford to race in from third. One final error by the Blue Demons, extended the inning and allowed Newton to come in with the tying run.

The tie didn’t last long as Lenti led off the bottom of the sixth inning with an infield single. She moved to third on a single by Verdun to left-center field. Braden capped a good day at the plate with a sacrifice fly to center field for the go-ahead run.



NEWARK, Del. – Junior right-hander Patrick Toohers took a shutout into the eighth inning and James Madison survived a late Delaware rally to win its season finale 7-5 on Saturday at Bob Hannah Stadium and clinch a spot in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

JMU improved to 17-34 overall, 8-12 in the CAA and clinched the No. 6 seed in the six-team tournament, which begins Wed. in Wilmington, N.C. The Dukes will face host and No. 3 seed UNCW at 3:30 p.m. UD fell to 24-25 overall and 10-10 in the league and will be the tournament’s No. 4 seed facing No. 5 Northeastern at noon. The losing teams from those two games play again at 7 p.m. in the double-elimination format.

Toohers limited the Blue Hens to five hits and no runs in seven-plus innings, exiting after a leadoff single in the eighth. He struck out one and walked one in his longest outing of the season to record his first win. Sophomore Mark Gunst picked up his first save of the season, third of his career, by going the final 1 1/3 innings.

Senior right fielder Tyler Gregory led JMU’s 13-hit attack by matching his career high with his second four-hit game of the season and three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the sixth. It was his seventh round tripper of the season in league play to match the conference lead.

Redshirt senior first baseman Matt Tenaglia also drove in three runs with a two-run home run to get the Dukes started in the first inning. Senior second baseman Conner Brown, junior center fielder Kevin Husum and redshirt sophomore shortstop Kyle Weston each had two-hit games to support the JMU effort.

Starter John Geffre took the loss for Delaware after allowing three first-inning runs before settling down for 4 2/3 innings total with six strikeouts. Second baseman Zach Lopes and first baseman Jake Clark each had two hits for the Blue Hens.

JMU grabbed the early lead with a three-run first inning thanks to Tenaglia’s two-out home run. The Dukes kept the inning going with Husum doubling and scoring on Gregory’s single to right field.

That score lasted until the sixth when the Dukes padded the lead with a Husum single and Gregory’s no-doubt two-run blast to right. A sixth JMU run scored in the seventh on Tenaglia’s sacrifice fly to center field.

After Toohers exited in the eighth, Delaware rallied against JMU freshman left-hander Michael Evans. The Blue Hens loaded the bases with one out and scored the first run on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, three straight RBI singles by Lopes, designated hitter Alex Mottle and Clark made it 6-4 and a wild pitch scored a run to finish the five-run frame.

The Dukes answered back with a big insurance run in the ninth. They loaded the bases on a double by Brown, intentional walk of Tenaglia and a single by Gregory. Weston then singled through the left side to drive in Tenaglia for the seventh run. Gunst worked a quick ninth inning, retiring all three batters in order to close out the 7-5 victory.