For the third time in four years, JMU is the CAA softball champion. The Dukes dominated the field over the course of the three-day tournament, outscoring its opponents 33-1 and finishing each of its three games in five innings with the run rule.
From the very first at-bat of the championship game, the Dukes were on fire. Leadoff hitter sophomore infielder Hannah File saw only two pitches before she blasted one over the left field wall. Later that inning, freshman outfielder Victoria Figueroa came in to pinch hit with the bases loaded and sent the first pitch out of the park for a grand slam.
“It was amazing,” Figueroa said after the game. “I was looking for the changeup and she threw it right where I wanted it … I want to do as much as I can to support my team … they always have my back, and I want to do as much as I can to show that I’ve got their backs, too.”
The Dukes looked unstoppable as runs continued to pile up through the second and third innings. The team’s stellar plate discipline helped fill the bases with seven walks in the first three innings, setting up RBI chances for almost every hitter who came to the plate.
Junior pitcher Odicci Alexander put up a stifling performance in the circle, ending the game with nine strikeouts and allowing just one hit. Her lights-out performance throughout the tournament earned her the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
“It feels great,” Alexander said after the game. “This lineup is pretty sick. It amazes me sometimes. One through nine, I have no doubt in my mind that one of them will get it done, no matter who it is.”
The Phoenix showed some life in the fourth inning after a leadoff double and a rare hit-by-pitch from Alexander put them with two on and no outs. Alexander didn’t let this get to her head, though, keeping her composure and calmly striking out the next three batters to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Elon did something no other team had done in the tournament and held JMU scoreless for an entire inning, ending a 15-inning scoring streak that stretched back to the last game of the regular season against Delaware. It was too late for the Phoenix, however, and the Dukes put them away in the next inning, ending the game appropriately on a strikeout from Alexander.
The team now starts a waiting game that will last until Sunday night when the NCAA will announce the hosts for the 2019 NCAA Softball Regional rounds. After a dominating performance in the conference tournament, head coach Loren LaPorte says the Dukes are confident in their chances to host but won’t be discouraged if the selection committee doesn’t feel the same way.
“I feel like we’ve done we what we needed to do in the [regular] season,” Laporte said. “It is what it is at this point. I feel like our team is at a really good place, so wherever we’ll be, I’m OK with.”
While the team awaits its next opponents, the players will have some time off to be with their families on Mother’s Day weekend, and practice will resume on Sunday. The NCAA Selection Show will be aired on ESPN2 on Sunday at 9 p.m.
Contact Will Watson at email@example.com. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.