JMU baseball improved its place in the CAA standings with a 5-4 win over William & Mary on Saturday afternoon. Several seniors started for JMU, including Bradley McKay at third base and Ryan Coale in left field in addition to regulars in the lineup like senior outfielder Adam Sisk and catcher Zach Tondi.
On Friday, the Dukes brought out the bats in a dominant 15-3 victory over the Tribe. JMU looked to continue the momentum and win the crucial second game of the series.
“We didn’t have as much of an offensive explosion [today] as we did in the first game,” sophomore infielder Fox Semones said. “[We] grinded this one out and made sure we were committed throughout the entire game.”
In the bottom of the first inning, the Dukes got off to a quick start after singles by Semones and Sisk. With runners at second and third base with one out after Semones stole second, sophomore designated hitter Harry Brown stepped up to the plate. A well-hit ball off Brown’s bat sailed over the head of Tribe left fielder Brandon Raquet and put the Dukes up 1-0, which was all JMU got in the inning.
“We’ve shown it [in] the last two or three games, where we can continue to hit throughout the whole game,” Sisk said. “If we have a big inning early in the game, we’re not done. We never stop.”
William & Mary struck in the third inning with a RBI double from freshman infielder Matt McDermott and a single from junior catcher Hunter Smith that drove in another pair of runs. However, just like the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, the Tribe would end up blowing the 3-1 lead.
The Dukes fired back an inning later with a sacrifice fly from McKay that pulled JMU to within one. Moments later, Tondi would single into center field and even the score at 3-3.
JMU starting pitcher Kevin Kelly would allow five hits and three runs in five innings while striking out eight of the 23 batters he faced. Junior reliever Garrett Richards wouldn’t have as much success and was pulled after facing just three batters and leaving runners on the corners. Fortunately for the Dukes, senior reliever Matt Colon retired the next two batters.
“Our bullpen has been outstanding all year,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “That’s what you want to see.”
William & Mary would retake the lead with a sacrifice fly that drove in Smith and put the visitors up 4-3. However, the Tribe lead wouldn’t last for long.
JMU took control of the game with back-to-back home runs, but only one of them left the park. Sophomore outfielder DaVonn Griffin got the fun started in the bottom of the seventh inning with a solo home run over the left field fence. Then, craziness ensued.
Semones popped a ball hit off Tribe senior reliever Charlie Fletcher into shallow center field, but poor defense by the Tribe led to the ball dropping, several outfielders stumbling and Semones crossing the plate. The crowd went into a frenzy as the Dukes took a 5-4 lead, the score JMU would eventually win by.
“I saw the middle infielder vacating to the center of the field,” Semones said. “I saw him start to fall and as soon as I saw it tip off his glove, I was like ‘Let’s go, I’m getting three [bases].’ Then, I saw our coach rounding me to four and I was just ecstatic.”
The victory was JMU’s third in a row, which puts the team at 18-16 on the season and 4-7 in conference play. This recent success comes after a discouraging four-game slide.
“We compete and we’re tough,” Ikenberry said. “There’s no doubt about that. We were really aggressive [both] today and yesterday. We’re playing solid defense, three games in a row without an error, so I’m excited about that.”
JMU’s defense, once its Achilles’ heel, has become somewhat of a strength in the last few contests. If the Dukes can continue to play a complete, mistake game, the team will quickly rise through the rankings.
“Now, it’s all coming together,” Semones said. “Offense, defense, it’s all there.”
JMU will take the field again tomorrow against William & Mary at 10 a.m. in the final game of the series. With a win, the Dukes would sweep a CAA team for the first time all season.