Morgan Tolle

Infielder Morgan Tolle prepares to zip a throw to first base from her knees in a game earlier this season.

JMU softball wanted to win the CAA tournament to not only showcase its prowess, but to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Softball Tournament. Unfortunately, the nightmare scenario happened as the Hofstra Pride took down No. 1 JMU on Friday to win the CAA tournament championship, creating the possibility of JMU getting snubbed from the dance.

Earlier in the season, JMU swept Hofstra to take first place in the CAA. It wasn’t a secret that Hofstra was going to want revenge, and what better way to do so than to win the conference tournament held at JMU.

“I’m bummed out,” sophomore utility Kate Gordon said. “It sucks watching another team celebrate on our field.”

It’s a tough pill to swallow watching another team drench its coach in Gatorade on one’s home field. For the JMU seniors, it’s even more difficult knowing it was the final game they’d play at Veterans Memorial Park. Senior infielder Morgan Tolle, however, thinks the disappointment could be used in a good way.

“I think keeping the bitter feeling of another team celebrating its championship on our field will help us in the long run,” Tolle said in reference to how the team will get through losing the CAA title. “I told the girls after, ‘You guys remember this, because next year when you’re back here again, you won’t want this again.’”

JMU did everything it could to fight for conference glory, but Hofstra’s hot hitting and superb pitching was too much. Head coach Loren LaPorte will give the team a day off on Saturday, but practice will resume Sunday in preparation for a hopeful postseason.

The Dukes will watch the NCAA Softball Selection Show at O’Neill’s Grill in Harrisonburg to see their fate. While they let an automatic bid slip out of their hands, the team is confident they’ll get an at-large bid.

“It’s definitely not the end for us,” freshman pitcher Payton Buresch said. “We have so much fight and so much grit, we’re not going to keep stopping.”

In both of its tournament losses to Hofstra, JMU held a lead at some point in each game. Home runs and a loss of momentum took the wind out of the team, but LaPorte’s focus in the postseason will be to get her pitching core back on track.

“Our offense is good enough to fight back,” LaPorte said. “It’s one thing that we have to talk with the pitchers that we can’t give up after a home run or a hard-hit ball.”

Resilience is one of the best qualities the Dukes have. With time to reboot and recover, they’ll be more than ready for the nation’s best teams.

JMU deserves a spot in the NCAA tournament. Boasting the nation’s 25th best RPI and owning wins over Hofstra, Mid-American Conference champion Ohio University, Long Beach State and California, the Dukes have built a solid resume for the selection committee. Until then, the team is eager to find out where they have to go and who they have to beat.

Contact Noah Ziegler at zieglenh@dukes.jmu.edu. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.