JMU roundup: Softball drops pair of games to open 2015 season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – James Madison opened its 2015 softball season Friday with a pair of one-run defeats as it dropped a 3-2 decision in eight innings to in-state rival Virginia Tech, followed by a 1-0 loss to host North Florida at the Osprey Invitational at the UNF Softball Complex.

Game One: Virginia Tech 3, JMU 2
Kelsey Mericka hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to lift Virginia Tech to a 3-2 victory in extra innings on Friday afternoon.

After both teams traded the first runs of the game in the seventh inning, the Hokies (7-0) took the lead for good in the top of the eighth when Mericka’s home run put them up 3-1 and the Dukes (0-1) were only able to muster one run in the bottom half of the inning to take the season-opening loss.

Maggie Tyler (3-0) earned the victory in the circle for Tech after pitching a complete game, allowing seven hits, two runs (one earned), while striking out a career-high 17 batters. Junior pitcher Jailyn Ford (0-1) took the loss for Madison after conceding four hits, three runs (one earned) and three walks. She also struck out seven Hokies in her eight innings pitched.

Seven different JMU players recorded hits on the day, as sophomore third baseman Madyson Moran and sophomore center fielder Taylor Newton both drove in one RBI each. Freshman first baseman Megan Good also recorded the team’s lone extra-base hit, with a double, which would eventually turn into the game-tying run in the seventh.

Aside from Mericka’s two RBI day for VT, Breanna Davenport also drove in a run with her lone hit in the top of the seventh.

After six scoreless inning between the in-state rivals, Virginia Tech scored the game’s first run on a base hit following an error. With a runner on first, JMU committed an error on a fielder’s choice, advancing Bailey Liddle to third. On the ensuing at-bat, Davenport singled to left center, driving in Liddle to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom half, Good led things off with a double down the right field line and sophomore utility Mimi Morris was brought in to pinch run. Freshman designated player Jessica Mrozek singled to second base, putting runners on the corners and with one out, Moran singled to the pitcher and Morris scored to tie it at 1-1. With two runners in scoring position, Virginia Tech picked off sophomore pinch runner Caitlin Viafora at third and Tyler struck out one more to force extras.

Due to tournament rules, teams placed the previous batter from the seventh on second base to start the inning and after Ford got one batter to pop out, Mericka hit her game-winning home run to give the Hokies the lead. In the bottom of the eighth, a two-out single by Newton drove in junior left fielder Hannah Hayes to make it a one-run game but Tech forced Good to fly out to center to end the ball game.

Game Two: North Florida 1, JMU 0
Despite allowing just one hit, James Madison was never able to plate a runner as North Florida earned a 1-0 victory to close out day one of the Osprey Invitational on Friday night.

The Ospreys (7-0) lone hit would eventually turn out to be the game-winning one as Stacy McClelland hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to provide the game’s only run.

Kayla Goff (4-0) earned the victory for UNF as she tossed 4.2 innings, allowing just three hits, two walks while striking out a pair of JMU batters. Janet Snipe came in to finish the final 2.1 innings in relief, giving up just one hit in the win for the hosts.

Senior pitcher Heather Kiefer allowed just one earned run, giving up a single hit, walking one more batter and striking out five in her 5.0 innings pitched.

Junior catcher Erica Field led the Dukes offense as she went 2-for-3 from the plate while junior left fielder Hannah Hayes went 1-for-3 for JMU’s only other hit.

The Dukes threatened UNF’s lead in the top of the fourth after loading the bases with one out on singles by Hayes and Field and a walk by junior first baseman Jailyn Ford. Goff got out of the jam by striking out freshman right fielder Megan Good and getting sophomore center fielder Taylor Newton to fly out to short.

JMU returns to action in Jacksonville on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. when it faces Maine for the first of two games. The Dukes close out their day with a 4:45 p.m. meeting against Jacksonville State.