JMU baseball finished its sweep of Norfolk Statewith a 6-5 victory at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday after cruising through the first two games of the weekend by a combined score of 28-7. JMU maintained control of the game up until the final out, where the Spartans nearly came back to force extra innings against the Dukes.
“Sweeping anybody in college baseball is tough to do,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “I’m just proud that our guys came out and battled.”
Senior pitcher Joe Williams, a transfer from George Mason, started shaky to begin his first career start for JMU — the first baseball game he played in two years. Despite initial difficulty locating the strike zone, Williams left the first inning unscathed after junior catcher Kyle Hayes tagged out Norfolk State center fielder Justin Hayes trying to steal home from third base.
The Dukes’ offense gave their pitcher some breathing room in the bottom of the first after two consecutive doubles opened the lead to 3-0. Junior first baseman Brady Harju sent sophomore designated hitter Michael Morgan to third base with a double down the left field line, but an obstruction error by the Spartans shortstop sent Morgan home.
“I always think when I’m out there that I’m going to get a hit,” Harju said. “Whenever I’m out there, [my teammates and coaches] all believe in me that I’m going to get it every time.”
After the first inning, Williams found his groove on the mound and recorded two strikeouts in the second to keep the Spartans scoreless. Hayes tagged out a second runner trying to steal home later in the top of the third, but that was the extent of Williams’ struggles for the rest of the afternoon. The left-hander finished the night with five shutout innings, recording four strikeouts while allowing two walks and three hits.
“I’ve been working hard to get to this point,” Williams said. “Just to be out there with my teammates today, it made all that hard work pay off.”
After the strong first inning for the Dukes, both offenses went quiet until the seventh inning. Norfolk State scored its first run of the day off an error from freshman shortstop Nick Zona to narrow the Dukes’ lead to 3-1.
JMU quickly answered in the bottom of the seventh, quickly loading the bases and rattling off three runs. Harju scored on a wild pitch, Hayes scored freshman third baseman Trevon Dabney on a sacrifice fly and Zona hit a grounder on the infield that allowed junior centerfielder DaVonn Griffin to cross the plate.
“The biggest thing this team has to understand is that every run counts,” Ikenberry said. “I was real proud of how we continued to compete.”
JMU used two relief pitchers to coast through the final few innings, but things became nerve wracking once senior closer Dan Goggin came out to wrap things up. After two quick strikeouts, a base hit and a three-run home run from Spartans sophomore DH Alsander Womack, the Dukes’ lead slimmed down to just one. Left in to handle the high-pressure situation, Goggin rebounded to strike out Spartans left fielder Caleb Ward and secure the three-game sweep for James Madison.
“Dan did a good job of finishing it up,” Williams said. “He played through a good hitter but bounced back and got the next guy striking out.”
JMU (3-0) will play its next game Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Park, where it hosts Longwood at 3 p.m.
Contact Jordan Simal at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more baseball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.