JMU finishes sweep of Tribe
Edited by Chris Graham
Senior Matt Browning (Mystic, Conn./Fitch) dropped a single down the right-field line to drive in the winning run as James Madison earned a walk-off win in the 11th inning, 7-6, over William and Mary to earn the Colonial Athletic Association series sweep on Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
JMU swept its first series since last April against Georgia State to improve to 18-14 overall and 9-3 in the CAA to remain in second place. It was the fifth straight CAA win and fourth straight CAA series win for JMU. W&M fell to 17-14 overall and 3-6 in the league with its fifth straight loss in the conference.
“Sweeps are good. Sweeps are hard,” commented JMU head coach Spanky McFarland. “It is hard to sweep somebody. The team that gets swept is always fighting to leave town with one win. The team that is going to sweep them gets a little loosey-goosey, overconfident, and that’s what happened with us today. We didn’t play our best baseball but we played good enough to win and sweep the series.”
Browning, who missed a chance to clinch the game in the ninth with the bases loaded, took advantage of his second opportunity. With redshirt junior first baseman Trevor Knight (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne’s-Belfield) on second, Browning blooped a high ball the opposite way just over the first baseman’s head to allow Knight to score with two outs.
McFarland commented on the big hit by Browning, who has been struggling the last week after a stellar first half of the season. He said, “He has been carrying us all year. He’s running into a little bit of trouble right now but he’s a good hitter. He’ll figure it out. He got jammed on that fast ball. Good hitters get jammed once in a while. If you don’t get jammed once in a while, you’ll never hit a breaking ball. He did the right thing. And it was strong enough to get over the guy’s head. There was a lot of those today for both teams.”
Junior closer Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) earned the victory to improve to 4-0 with three scoreless innings of relief with five strikeouts. Fellow junior Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts. The pair combined for 6 2/3 innings of relief allowing just two hits, a walk, and a hit batter.
Jay McCarthy took the loss for W&M despite a solid outing. He fell to 1-2 after allowing the winning run on six hits with seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
At the plate, redshirt senior right fielder Matt Townsend (Lorton, Va./Hayfield) went 3-for6 with three RBIs and a home run. Junior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) had two hits with a double.
Second baseman Jonathan Slattery had two hits, including a home run, two runs, and two RBIs for the Tribe. Shortstop Derrick Osteen and left fielder Stephen Arcure each had two hits.
After getting out of the first inning despite two leadoff runners, William and Mary came right back in the second. Arcure led off with a double to left. Then with one out, R.J. Archer doubled into the corner in right field for the first career hit for the Tribe football quarterback, playing his first season with the baseball team as a senior.
In JMU’s half of the inning, sophomore catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) rocketed a solo shot to right center to lead off and tie the score at 1-1. The Dukes kept the rally going with a single by senior second baseman Mike Fabiaschi (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) and a Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) hit by pitch. Townsend then smacked a three-run shot to left for his second home run in as many days.
W&M put its first two runners on again in the third on a pair of walks. JMU junior starter Turner Phelps (Roanoke, Va./Lord Botetourt) got two quick outs on a double play, but Slattery sent a two-run home run to right center to pull the Tribe within a run at 4-3. The fourth walk of the inning loaded the bases before a foul flyout ended the inning.
In the fifth, Slattery reached on a one-out single and stole second. A double by Arcure tied the score at 4-4 and another double by Williams gave the Tribe the lead. W&M tacked on another run as Williams stole third and scored when the ball got away into left field.
The W&M lead held until the bottom of the sixth when a Herbek double and Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) walk put two runners on with one out. Pinch hitter Brett Garner (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock) worked the count full and lined the ball into the corner in right to score both runs with Garner narrowly out at third trying to stretch the double to a triple.
Garner’s at bat proved critical to send the game to extra innings eventually. McFarland said of the at bat, “That was a great at-bat and he knew it. Off of a full count, and he saw a lot of breaking balls. The only way to hit it is to go the other way. He did a nice job. McCarthy had our number. He pitched really well.”
In the ninth, JMU loaded the bases on consecutive one-out singles by McInturff and Townsend. Knight was intentionally walked to load the bases, however Browning hit a tapper back to the pitcher for the one-two-three double play to send the game to extra innings.
JMU will travel to Radford on Tuesday at 3 p.m. for its lone midweek game this week.