Four James Madison Diamond Dukes collect All-CAA accolades

jmu logoSophomore left fielder Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) collected First Team All-CAA honors to highlight four James Madison award recipients as the Colonial Athletic Association held its baseball awards banquet Tuesday night at the Festival Ballroom and Events Center on the eve of the 2013 Championship.

In addition to Carroll’s First Team laurel, three Diamond Dukes earned Third Team accolades, including senior outfielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge), senior utility player Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton) and junior designated hitter Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin).

Delaware first baseman Jimmy Yezzo was recognized as the CAA Player of the Year and UNCW southpaw Mat Batts garnered CAA Pitcher of the Year honors.  Towson catcher Andrew Parker was named CAA Defensive Player of the Year and CAA Rookie of the Year went to Georgia State outfielder Josh Merrigan.  UNCW’s Mark Scalf and William and Mary’s Jamie Pinzino shared CAA Coach of the Year honors.

Carroll was a CAA All-Rookie selection in 2012 as a shortstop.  This year he settled into a starting role in the outfield by the second week of the season and flourished at the plate. Once he took over the position full-time, he went on a 16-game hitting streak, batting .443 with 25 RBIs in that span.  For the season, he was second on the team with a .393 average.  He led JMU with 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts while leading the nation with eight triples.  He scored 43 runs and added 14 doubles and three home runs. In addition to leading the nation in triples, he ranks fourth in the CAA in average, RBIs and steals, ranking top 20 in the country in both average and RBIs per game (1.13).

Bladel fit perfectly into the leadoff role as an on-base specialist for the Dukes and caught on late in the season as one of Madison’s most reliable pitchers.  At one juncture in the middle of the season, he led the nation in on-base percentage and enters the tournament 22nd in NCAA Division I, first in the CAA at .482.  He ranks fourth in the nation with 0.96 walks per game.  A .311 hitter, Bladel also ranked second in the CAA with 13 hit by pitches and third with 56 runs scored.  His 50 walks for the season ranks third in JMU history behind Kellen Kulbacki’s school record of 56.  He added 11 doubles, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.  On the mound, he made starts in JMU’s last four weekends, working at least six innings on three occasions with 24 strikeouts in those four games.  His last two starts have featured the first pitching victories of his career.  Bladel was Second Team All-CAA as a sophomore when he was also Most Outstanding Player of the CAA Championship and named to the NCAA Chapel Hill All-Regional Team.  He was All-Rooke as a freshman in 2010.

Brown has been one of JMU’s key offensive cogs over the latter half of the season, batting .393 since early April when his average bottomed out at .294.  Over his last 20 games, he had 11 multiple-hit games, eight multiple-RBI games and seven of his team-best nine home runs.  Brown is hitting .343 with 41 runs, 12 doubles and 44 RBIs.  He ranks sixth in the CAA in home runs thanks to his late surge and eighth with a .598 slugging percentage.  Brown spent the better part of the season as the designated hitter as he continued to recover from an injury late in 2012 before finally being cleared for infield play at second base in April.  He was Third Team All-CAA last year and was named to the NCAA All-Regional squad in 2011.

Roberts began the year as a true utility player, seeing a part-time role in the outfield and at designated hitter while also making the first eight pitching appearances of his career out of the bullpen.  He emerged with a career game against Radford on April 16, going 4-for-4 with five RBIs, two home runs and the game-winning double to snap JMU’s 11-game losing streak.  He took off from there, batting .452 (33-for-73) over JMU’s final 18 games with nine doubles, four home runs and 28 RBIs.  He leads JMU in average, hits, doubles, RBIs and on-base percentage over that 18-game stretch to close the season.  He finished the year ranked 12th in the nation with a .395 average, 23rd with a .645 slugging percentage and 55th with a .462 on-base percentage. He totaled 32 runs, 10 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 35 RBIs.

JMU is the No. 6 seed for the 2013 CAA Baseball Championship and opens action on its home field, Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park, Wednesday afternoon with a 3:30 p.m. game against No. 3 Delaware.  The tournament gets underway at noon as No. 4 Towson battles No. 5 Northeastern.

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