No. 22 JMU softball (13-5) defeated Saint Joseph’s (7-9), 14-2 and Rutgers (13-10), 10-1 during a two-game Friday afternoon in the JMU Invitational. A passionate home crowd welcomed the team home for its first home game of the new season. JMU had been on the road for the past month competing in multiple tournaments.
“We have a great group of fans coming up to support us,” sophomore infielder Hannah Files said. “We’ve been on the road for almost two months now, so to finally be home and do our thing is really great.”
From the first inning on in Game One, the bats were hot for the Dukes as they scored three runs early in the contest. Two of JMU’s first three runs came off a towering home run into left field from senior pitcher/infielder Megan Good. It was business as usual for the Dukes once they claimed the lead, and they never looked back.
Junior pitcher Odicci Alexander dominated on the mound for JMU. In five innings of play, the Boydton, Virginia, product struck out eight Hawks and allowed only one hit. Alexander’s solid performance only further drove her offense as the Dukes continued their solid hitting for the remainder of the game.
JMU fired on all cylinders at the plate in the third and fourth innings with booming home runs into center field by File and sophomore infielder Sara Jubas. The Dukes rode the crowd’s energy into the top of the fifth inning, where Alexander held the Hawks hitless and quickly retired the side. After four and a half innings, JMU won the first game, 14-2.
Thirty minutes later, first pitch against Rutgers was thrown for a fouled strike from Good as Game 2 began. Switching to the mound from the infield, Good maintained control of her pitching throughout the contest, recording back-to-back strikeouts to close the first inning and throwing four overall in the contest. Despite playing two different positions between both games, the JMU senior kept cool under pressure.
“It’s just another day at the park for me,” Good said. “I just try and do the best that I can every day.”
The game was tight through the middle of the fourth. The top of the third saw File come alive, snagging a would-be hit for an out from third base and later blasting a home run into the left field bleachers in the bottom of the inning. An RBI from JMU junior catcher Kierstin Roadcap in the fourth later gave the Dukes a small 2-0 lead. However, opening the fifth inning strong for Rutgers was junior infielder Nicole Bowman who hit a solo home run and brought the game within one run.
Quick to respond, JMU’s offense exploded in the bottom of the fifth as the Dukes scored two early runs off a double from junior utility player Kate Gordon to take a 4-1 lead. Singles from Good and Roadcap, as well as an unearned run for sophomore outfielder Logan Newton, gave the Dukes a six-run lead. This all led to junior infielder Madison Naujokas coming to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the inning with two runners on.
The pitch delivered to the Chicago, Illinois, native was sent over the wall for a walk-off three-run home run to give the Dukes an incredible 10-1 victory. Naujokas was met at home plate by her teammates to close out the afternoon. With a combined 24 runs, JMU opened its home invitational with two wins on the first day of play.
Head coach Loren LaPorte was proud of her team’s effort in both games and acknowledged that consistency at the plate had been a key focus in practice.
“We’ve been working all week with our hitters at progressing from their first at-bat to their third at-bat,” LaPorte said. “They figured out the adjustment, just like Naujokas with that walk-off; she came up the third time in the fifth inning and was able to get the inside pitch out of here.”
JMU stands at 13-5 on the season. The Dukes play Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park at 2 p.m. against Binghamton.
Contact Jordan Simal at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.