One year ago, JMU softball watched another team celebrate at Veterans Memorial Park. It was a feeling the team said it won’t forget as it continues its impressive season.
When Hofstra downed the Dukes 7-4 last year, the cracks showed for JMU. LaPorte said the team felt tired as they entered postseason play. This year, however, is different. The Dukes are riding a 19-game win streak and is preparing to make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. LaPorte, however, still doesn’t want her team to forget how it felt when the Pride won the 2018 CAA Softball Tournament. She believes that fire brings the Dukes’ game up a notch.
“That was one of the worst feelings you could ever feel,” junior infielder/catcher Kierstin Roadcap said. “I think even now in the CAA commercials, they still show [Hofstra] celebrating on our field. It brings back a bad taste and we’ve really learned and grew from that.”
A year later, the Dukes learned — and in turn — dominated the 2019 CAA Softball Tournament.
All three games ended in five innings via the run rule. JMU scored in every inning but one, gave up a single run throughout the tournament and launched 10 home runs total. Junior pitcher Odicci Alexander and redshirt senior pitcher Megan Good combined for 24 strikeouts in three games. The dominating display given by the Dukes culminated in a 12-0 victory over Elon, giving JMU its fifth conference title.
“This is a great feeling,” LaPorte said. “I feel like our team has stayed consistent, stayed composed and focused. I’m really proud of them, and I’m also so proud of my coaching staff. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
While the Dukes were favorites all season, they know nothing is guaranteed. The one game at a time mentality has helped them roll through their schedule, boasting a 47-7 (20-1 CAA) record. Five of JMU’s losses came to ranked teams, it has the No. 14 Rating Percentage Index (RPI) and is 4-4 against RPI top-25 opponents. The case to be the host of a 2019 NCAA Tournament Regional has been made, but the Dukes’ fate is in the hands of the committee.
Alexander and other members of the team feel it deserves to host a regional. It’s been ranked in all three top-25 national polls throughout the season and is playing its best softball at the right time.
“[We’re] very deserving,” Alexander said. “All of the effort and the hard work we’ve put in, we definitely deserve that.”
Alexander also said the Dukes have the team to make a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, with the ultimate destination of the Women’s College World Series — a feat JMU has never accomplished. LaPorte, however, says the team won’t get ahead of itself.
“It’s going to be one game at a time,” LaPorte said. “We can’t put the cart in front of the horse. I think this team knows that we’re not even going to be talking about the Championship, Regionals, [Super Regionals] or the World Series. It’s just one game at a time, one pitch at a time, staying focused and being who we are.”
After the victory, LaPorte took the team to Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse in Harrisonburg, as the team does whenever it wins a postseason championship. Today, the Dukes have the day off, but tomorrow, it’s back to work, starting with practice and ending with the team gather at O’Neill’s Grill to watch the NCAA Selection Show at 9 p.m on ESPN2.
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.