JMU advances to CAA title game

Two relievers shut the door while the first four batters combined for 12 hits as James Madison rallied from a 6-3 deficit to record a 13-7 victory over UNC Wilmington in game four of the 2011 Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship on Friday afternoon at Brooks Field.

JMU, ranked 30th nationally by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, advances to Saturday’s 1 p.m. CAA Championship where it will face the winner between Friday night’s elimination game between UNCW (31-27) and Old Dominion (29-25).

The Dukes became the first top seed to reach the championship game in the eight years that the tournament has been contested at Brooks Field. JMU improved to 39-17 and tied the nation’s longest winning streak at eight games. The Dukes also won their 12th straight game against CAA teams.

UNCW grabbed an early 6-3 lead thanks to a patient approach against JMU junior starter Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) combined with some defensive miscues. However, the Dukes charged back to outscore the Seahawks 10-1 over the final six innings. They scored three each in the fifth and sixth to take a 9-6 lead, withstood a big opportunity for UNCW in the sixth and put the game away with four in the eighth.

Senior left-hander James Weiner (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne’s-Belfield) entered with one on in the fourth and retired six straight batters while the Dukes rallied to take the lead. UNCW loaded the bases in the sixth with the help of a pair of infield singles.

Sophomore D.J. Brown (Locust Grove, Va./Orange County) induced a double play and a ground out to hold the Seahawks to one run. He went the rest of the way to earn his fourth save of the season with four scoreless innings. Weiner earned the win to improve to 2-2.

The first four JMU batters combined for 12 hits, nine RBIs and eight runs scored in the game. Sophomore Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) matched his career high with his third four-hit game of the season while scoring four times, including a straight steal of home in the eighth. Junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) had his second four-hit game of the season with a double to break the JMU record for season total bases while also matching the CAA record with 185.

Senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) drove in five runs for the second time this season and moved into fifth in JMU history for season RBIs with 72. Sophomore first baseman Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) ran his streak of reaching base to 33 games with two hits and two RBIs. Sophomore right fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) helped set the table at the ninth spot in the order with two hits while also reaching on an error and matching his career high with three runs scored.

Starter Tyler McSwain took the loss for UNCW. He fell to 5-5 after allowing nine runs, seven earned, on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Four pitchers worked in relief over the final 3 2/3 innings.

Center fielder Michael Bass and third baseman Matt Campbell each went 2-for-4 at the top of the order for the Seahawks. Bass tripled, walked and scored a run. Campbell doubled to drive in two and scored a run. First baseman Hunter Ridge had two RBIs on a single.

The game started with JMU loading the bases with no outs in the first inning with a Bladel single, Lowery double and Herbek walk. Tenaglia hit into a double play as Bladel came in to score. Redshirt senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) then hit a grounder to short that took a tough hop off the glove and led to an error to allow Lowery to score.

The Seahawks responded quickly with a leadoff triple to the corner in right by Bass and an RBI groundout by Campbell.

In the second inning, UNCW put runners on with walks by shortstop Jake Koenig and second baseman Cameron Cockman. With two outs Campbell came through with a double down the left field line to tie the score and a single by Ridge put the Seahawks ahead 4-2.

McInturff led off the JMU third inning by reaching on an error. He moved to third on Lowery’s single to left and scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow left by Herbek. The sac fly extended his season and career records to 10 and 25, respectively. A double by Tenaglia put two in scoring position but McSwain recovered to strike out Foltz.

UNCW extended its lead thanks to some JMU miscues in the third. After a leadoff walk, consecutive sacrifice attempts by the Seahawks resulted in JMU errors. Catcher David Shambley’s bunt ended in a throw dropped at first base by sophomore second baseman Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby). The ensuing bunt by Koenig was thrown away by Scott to allow two runs to score.

JMU loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth on consecutive singles by McInturff, Bladel and Lowery. One run came in as Herbek reached on an error by the third baseman. Tenaglia then singled to right to score two and knot the game at 6-6.

After one out in the sixth, Shaban laced a single through the right side and McInturff singled up the middle. Bladel then connected on his third hit of the day, a single to left to plate Shaban for the go-ahead run at 7-6. After a flyout by Lowery, Herbek singled through the right side to plate McInturff for an 8-6 lead. With runners on the corners and two outs, Bladel took off on a straight steal attempt of home. Relief pitcher Steven Davis was paying attention to Herbek at first,allowing Bladel to score without a throw for a 9-6 lead.

UNCW responded to JMU’s two big innings by loading the bases with no outs in the sixth on an infield single by Hill, a single down the left field line by Cockman and a bunt single by Bass. The Dukes turned to closer D.J. Brown, who immediately turned a 4-6-3 double play with a run scoring. Tenaglia then made a diving stop of a hard grounder to first with a toss to Brown stranding the runner at third.

JMU broke open the game with another big inning in the eighth. Pinch hitter Billy Logan (Greenup, Ky./Greenup County) led off with a four-pitch walk. Bladel singled for his fourth hit of the day to push pinch runner Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) to third. Lowery singled to score Haynes and Herbek singled to plate Bladel & Lowery. After a pitching change, Herbek moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on Foltz’ sacrifice fly to make it 13-7.

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