JMU softball (46-7, 20-1 CAA) secured its spot in the CAA championship game after defeating the Elon Phoenix 9-1 in five innings.
The Dukes put on an offensive spectacle, hitting four home runs — including back-to-back homers in the fifth inning — to help propel the team to an eight-run lead. The lead activated the run rule and gave JMU the game in just five innings for the second consecutive day.
The Dukes started the game strong with three runs in the first inning, including a home run from junior outfielder Kate Gordon that tied the all-time JMU record for home runs in a season by a single player at 18. Junior catcher Kierstin Roadcap hit a blooper up the middle of the infield that drove in two more runs on great base running by junior designated player Odicci Alexander and senior pitcher Megan Good.
Good took to the pitcher’s circle for the first time in the tournament and struck out four of the first eight batters she faced. Head coach Loren LaPorte believes Good’s composure has been the key to her effectiveness in the circle.
“[Megan is] really not letting things affect her,” LaPorte said. “If something happens, she keeps her composure, where at the beginning of the year she was kind of hard on herself … Her and [Alexander] have both been starting to let things go and just focus on the next pitch instead of remembering what just happened, which is what you really want in the circle.”
Elon is the only CAA team to defeat the Dukes this year, beating the team 5-3 at Veterans Memorial Park in March. JMU has been using its past missteps as fuel heading into this tournament, including last year’s defeat to Hofstra in the championship round.
“We really learned and regrouped from [last year’s loss],” Roadcap said. “I think that we will make sure that that doesn’t happen again … We’re playing JMU softball. Day in and day out, we do what we are here to do and what we’ve been taught since we’ve been here, and it’s working for us.”
The Dukes kept hitting as the game progressed and exploded in the fifth inning with back-to-back home runs from junior infielder Madison Naujokas and sophomore infielder Hannah File. After a Gordon single and a double from Good, Gordon made a spectacular slide into home plate to win the game off of a fielder’s choice hit by Alexander. Good expressed her confidence in the team’s offensive performance going forward after the game.
“Anyone in our lineup can hit a home run … everyone on the team is hitting the ball really well, and we’re also getting walks,” Good said. “We’re doing a great job in the hitting aspect, and that gives us momentum. We feed off that energy.”
JMU will play for its fifth CAA Championship tomorrow at noon. If the Dukes are defeated in the first game, they will play again immediately after.
Contact Will Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.