JMU roundup: Ford pitches Dukes to win in CAA tourney opener
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HARRISONBURG — Sophomore left-hander Jailyn Ford tossed her 19th complete game of the season to lead the James Madison University softball team to a 3-2 win over Towson in the opening game of the Colonial Athletic Association Championship at Veterans Memorial Park on Wednesday.
JMU tied the single-season school record with its 42nd of the year, improving to 42-13 overall. The Dukes advance to the winners’ bracket of the CAA Championship and face the winner of Wednesday’s second game between the College of Charleston and Hofstra at noon on Thursday. Towson dropped to 27-24 and moves into the elimination bracket. The Tigers play at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Ford, the CAA Pitcher of the Year, earned the win in the circle for the Dukes, improving to 22-6 on the season. She limited the Tigers to two runs, one earned, on eight hits in seven innings pitched. The left-hander struck out eight on the afternoon, giving her a school-record 214 strikeouts this year.
Towson’s Missy McCormick took the loss, falling to 15-10. She gave up three runs, two earned on five hits. The right-hander struck out three and walked two.
Madison’s offense was guided by freshman left fielder Tahli Moore who went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a run scored. Senior first baseman Cassidy Clayton chipped in a double and a RBI in two at-bats while senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
Towson was led by left fielder Jessica South with a home run in three trips to the plate. Catcher Holiday Cahill was 2-for-3 with two singles and third baseman Delanie Dunham knocked a single in three plate appearances.
The Dukes opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning on Clayton’s two-out double. Sandy started the rally with a single through the right side and scored from first when Clayton whacked a pitch off the top of the fence in right-center field for her ninth double of the season.
Madison capitalized on a TU error to increase the lead to 3-0 in its next at-bat. Moore led off with a single to right field and moved to third on a single to left-center by freshman center fielder Niki Prince. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, sophomore catcher Erica Field lifted a fly ball to left, chasing home Moore on the sacrifice fly. The throw home from the Tiger left fielder was mishandled at the plate for an error, allowing Prince to come home.
Towson took advantage of a pair of Dukes’ throwing errors in the top of the sixth to cut the lead to 3-1. Shortstop Hailey Balk led off by beating out an infield single. She was erased on a fielder’s choice, but the throw on the back end of the double play was wide allowing right fielder Maureen Hepner to advance to second. A seeing-eye single off the bat of McCormick landed in right field and another JMU throw went wild as Hepner raced home with TU’s first run.
South led off the seventh inning with her fourth home run of the season to make it 3-2. Two more Tigers reached base in the inning, but Ford worked out of trouble with a strikeout and a ground-out to end the threat.