JMU completes sweep of Towson

Senior left-hander Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) limited Towson to one run in six innings and the bottom of the order did most of the damage in James Madison’s 11-1 Colonial Athletic Association baseball victory Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.

With its seventh straight conference victory, JMU clinched a spot in the four-team CAA Championship to be held May 26-28 in Wilmington, N.C. At 18-9, the Dukes also pulled into a first-place tie in the league with Old Dominion, which lost to UNC Wilmington on Sunday. At 34-17 overall, JMU also reached a season-best 17 games over .500. The Dukes finished the year 21-8 at home.

Towson had won 19 of 25 games through last weekend’s home sweep of VCU. However, the sweep at JMU made it five straight losses for the Tigers, who fell to 25-26-1 overall and 14-13 and a tie for sixth in the CAA.

After two innings of play, the game was delayed for one hour and 25 minutes. Once play resumed near 4 p.m., the Tigers went to the bullpen and JMU hit reliever Zach Umberger with two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth. The Dukes added a six spot in the sixth to make it a 10-run lead with all the damage in the middle three innings. JMU improved to 21-0 this season when scoring 10 or more runs.

While Towson switched pitchers, JMU stuck with its starter through the delay and Valadja came through with six innings of work. He allowed one run on six hits with four strikeouts for his best start statistically since March 26 against Old Dominion.

Three pitchers tossed one inning apiece to finish the win as JMU matched its season low with its fourth game allowing one run.

The fifth through eighth batters in the order combined for nine of JMU’s 15 hits while six different players had multiple-hit games. Senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) drove in three runs with a single and his first triple of the season. Sophomore second baseman Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) hit a three-run home run in the sixth to finish with four RBIs.

Freshman designated hitter Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) had two hits, a walk, RBI and three runs scored. Junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) and senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) each had a pair of hits. Freshman third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) had three hits with a pair of bunt singles while sophomore right fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) doubled and had a pair of sacrifice flies while making the defens. Sophomore first baseman Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) doubled to run his hitting streak to 19 games while walking twice and scoring twice.

Shortstop Nick Natoli had three of Towson’s nine hits. Right fielder Steve Rice added a pair while second baseman Pat Fitzgerald had the only RBI.

JMU loaded the bases in the first as Herbek singled, Tenaglia doubled and Foltz walked, all with two outs. However, Towson starter Michael Trionfo recovered to escape with a strikeout.

After the lengthy rain delay, the score held until the fourth when JMU loaded the bases with no outs on a McFarland double, Shaban hit by pitch and Brown bunt single. McInturff lifted a sacrifice fly to left for the first run of the game and Lowery added an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.

Towson put together a two-out rally after a pair of strikeouts in the fifth. Left fielder Dominic Fratantuono drew a full-count walk. Natoli singled through the right side and Fitzgerald singled up the middle just off the glove of the diving shortstop, Herbek, to plate the first run.

Tenaglia led off the JMU fifth with a walk. Foltz placed a triple into the corner in right to plate Tenaglia for a 3-1 lead. It was his first triple since the final game at Long Field/Mauck Stadium on May 16, 2009, which was also a game with a lengthy rain delay. McFarland walked and Shaban singled to plate Foltz. Brown reached on a bunt single for the second time in the game to load the bases, still with no outs in the inning. McInturff then lifted his second sacrifice fly of the game to make it 5-1. Sophomore left fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) hit a sharp liner to short that was snared with Brown doubled up at first to end the threat of further damage.

The Tigers threatened in the sixth with a leadoff single and a two-out walk. Center fielder Brandon Gonnella smacked a fly ball deep to right center that would have scored a pair of runs, but McInturff made the long run and snared the ball with his glove extended to end the inning.

The Dukes all but put the game away in the sixth as Lowery and Herbek led off with singles and Tenaglia drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with no outs. Foltz then drove in a pair of runs with a single to right for a 7-1 score. McFarland pulled a single through the right side to make it 8-1. After a pitching change, Shaban greeted the new Tigers’ pitcher with a three-run homer to right for an 11-1 lead.

Weather-permitting, JMU is schedule to play at Radford on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Dukes then close the regular season with a three-game CAA series at Northeastern Thursday through Saturday.

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