JMU roundup: Dukes’ Ford wins Pitcher of the Year honor

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University sophomore pitcher/first baseman Jailyn Ford repeated as the Virginia Pitcher of the Year as part of nine honors collected by the James Madison softball team from the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) on Wednesday.

Joining Ford as major award winners were freshman outfielder Niki Prince, who was named the Rookie of the Year, and coach Mickey Dean who collected his fourth career VaSID Coach of the Year accolade. Ford was joined on the all-state first team by senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy and junior pitcher Heather Kiefer, while senior first baseman Cassidy Clayton, freshman outfielder Taylor Newton and Prince garnered second team nods.

Ford, a second team All-America selection, won her second, and JMU’s third, VaSID Pitcher of the Year honor after setting or tying program records for wins, strikeouts, starts, innings pitched, appearances and shutouts. She went 24-7 with a 1.26 ERA in 41 appearances, including 31 starts. The left-hander struck out 233 in 228 2/3 innings pitched and posted 21 complete games, nine shutouts and four saves. Meredith Felts (2006-09) is the only other Madison pitcher to claim VaSID Pitcher of the Year (2009).

Dean picked up his fourth state Coach of the Year honor from VaSID and his second in two years with JMU. He was the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year after his team went 15-3 in league play and won both the regular season and tournament championship. In two seasons in Harrisonburg, Dean is 87-32 overall and, in 2014 his team became the first CAA team to sweep a series from Hofstra in conference history.

Prince added VaSID Rookie of the Year honors to her CAA freshman honor. She hit .287 with seven doubles and six home runs over 50 games played. The center fielder added 22 RBIs out of the lead-off position, scored 32 runs, walked 21 times and was 14 of 15 in steal attempts.

Sandy finished her JMU career as one of the hottest hitters in the nation, batting .472 with a .782 slugging percentage and a .483 on base percentage over Madison’s final 18 games. Overall, she hit .354 with 10 doubles, one triple and eight home runs in 60 games started. The CAA Player of the Year added 32 RBIs, 32 runs scored, 16 walks, three sacrifice flies and stole six bases. She struck out only 11 times in 175 at-bats and converted 219 of 231 fielding attempts for a .948 fielding percentage.

Kiefer won a career-high 20 games, going 20-8 with a 2.04 ERA in 38 appearances and 28 starts. The right-hander struck out 71 against 23 walks and limited opponents to a .261 batting average against in 161 2/3 innings pitched. She had 14 complete games, five shutouts and three saves.

Clayton was tied for second on the team with a career-high 10 doubles. She appeared in 57 games, starting 54 of them and batted .262 with 18 RBIs and seven runs scored. The first baseman chipped in a triple and hit her first career home run during her senior campaign for JMU.

Newton adds all-state second team to her All-CAA second team and all-rookie honors. She batted .264 with six doubles, two triples and eight home runs, finishing second on the squad in homers. She contributed 32 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 15 walks and six steals.

Longwood’s Megan Baltzell was named the State Player of the Year as part of four honors collected by the Lancers. JMU was tied with Virginia Tech for the most members of the all-state team with six apiece, followed by Longwood and Norfolk State with three each.

The Dukes won a school record 45 games in 2014 and collected the program’s second CAA championship after going 3-0 in the conference tournament. They made their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, playing in the Lexington Regional at the University of Kentucky where they knocked off DePaul, 6-1, in the opening game of the tournament.

Women’s lacrosse

RICHMOND — The Colonial Athletic Association honored junior Alison Curwin on Wednesday afternoon as the 2014 CAA Scholar-Athlete for women’s lacrosse.

She is the first James Madison women’s lacrosse student-athlete to earn the award.

Award winners for each of the 11 spring honors were selected by a vote of the sports information directors at each CAA institution. Nominees must be a starter or important reserve on their team and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.25.

Curwin, a junior mathematics major with a minor in secondary education, is a three-time JMU Athletic Director Scholar-Athlete and a three-time Dean’s List honoree. She was named to the CAA All-Academic squad in 2014 and earned a spot on the President’s List in spring 2013.

On the field, Curwin garnered spots on the All-CAA first team, Virginia Sports Information Directors All-State University Division first team and Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-South Region second team. She assisted on 22 goals this season, tying a team high, and tallied 27 goals, 31 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers and 26 draw controls.

In 2014, the Dukes earned a share of the CAA regular-season title after a 4-1 record against league foes. JMU went 11-7 overall, including wins over No. 5 Loyola (Md.) (W, 8-7) and No. 9 Penn State (W, 11-10).