JMU rallies for win in NCAA opener
James Madison charged ahead with a six-run seventh inning and sophomore D.J. Brown (Locust Grove, Va./Orange County) allowed three hits in 7 1/3 innings of relief in an 11-7 victory over FIU on Friday afternoon at North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium.
JMU, ranked 28th nationally by Collegiate Baseball, ran the nation’s longest winning streak to 10 games to improve to 41-17. The Dukes, the regional’s No. 3 seed, advance to face the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 1 UNC and No. 4 Maine. No. 2 FIU, ranked 20th by Baseball America, fell to 40-19-1 and meets the losing team at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Brown worked in relief of junior starter Sean Tierney (Midlothian, Va./Clover Hill), who had allowed one run in his previous 20 innings before being touched by a powerful FIU offense for five runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings. Brown went the final 7 1/3 to improve to 9-1 for the season. He allowed three hits, two on solo home runs, and struck out five while retiring 10 in a row over one stretch in the middle innings.
The game was all offense in the early innings as the teams combined for 10 runs and 14 hits for a 5-5 tie after two innings. The pitching staffs settled in for the middle innings as FIU took a 6-5 lead on a Yoandy Barroso solo shot in the fourth.
That one-run margin held until the seventh when JMU erupted for its six-run inning. The first eight batters of the inning all reached base, giving JMU a 10-6 lead before an out was even recorded. The Golden Panthers could muster only a solo home run in the eighth as Brown closed out the victory.
The All-American duo of junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) and senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) once again led the way as part of a 14-hit attack for the Dukes. Lowery’s single in the seventh tied the game at 6-6. He went 3-for-4 with three runs, three RBIs, a walk and his 23rd home run of the season, a solo shot in the first for the game’s first run. Herbek was 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a pair of RBIs.
Junior left fielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) had a pair of singles, scored twice and drove in a run for JMU. Right fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) had two hits in the leadoff spot and scored twice. Redshirt senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) had two hits with a run and an RBI while sophomore first baseman Matt Tenaglia (had a key two-run single in the seventh-inning explosion.
Starter R.J. Fondon took the loss for FIU after allowing seven runs, five earned, on nine hits over six innings. He allowed five runs in the first two innings thanks to contributions from a pair of defensive errors. However, he settled down to retire 13 of 14 JMU batters before allowing singles to the eventual tying and go-ahead runners in the seventh.
Jose Velazquez relieved Fondon and surrendered four hits and a walk without recording an out. He had allowed just eight earned runs all season in 52 1/3 innings before seeing his season ERA double from 1.38 to 2.75 by the time his day was complete. Christian Malbrough and Aaron Arboleya held JMU at bay over the final three innings.
JMU earned its second victory of the season in a game in which it allowed five home runs (12-11 over Delaware April 24). However, the Dukes were able to maintain a sense of control with each of the five round trippers being solo shots by Pablo Bermudez, Garrett Wittels, Mike Martinez, Yoandy Barroso and Jabari Henry. Wittels, Martinez and Barroso each had two of FIU’s 11 hits.
JMU picked up the early lead in the contest on the second batter of the game with a solo home run by Lowery to right field, his first long ball in nine games.
FIU responded with a big two-out rally in the bottom of the frame. Wittels connected on a line drive solo shot to left to quickly tie the score. The Golden Panthers continued to batter the left side of the field as Martinez doubled and designated hitter Rudy Flores singled to plate the go-ahead run. Catcher Jose Behar also doubled to the corner in left. Second baseman T.J. Shantz then lined a single under the glove of freshman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) at third to score Flores, but Behar was thrown out at the plate by Haynes to end the inning.
The Dukes answered with a four-run inning in the second to take the lead as sophomore second baseman Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) and Haynes hit consecutive singles to left. Bladel then reached on an error at first to load the bases with one out. Lowery hit a sharp line drive to right that dropped in for a single. The right fielder fell down on the play to allow Lowery to reach third as the bases cleared for a 4-3 lead. Herbek followed with a double deep to left center to make it 5-3.
The back-and-forth play continued as the Golden Panthers connected on back-to-back solo shots by Henry and Bermudez to tie the score at 5-5 after just two complete innings.
After 14 combined hits and 10 runs in the first two innings, the score held until the bottom of the fourth as Barroso led off the inning with FIU’s fourth solo home run of the game to give his team a 6-5 lead.
Fondon had retired 13 of 14 batters before running into trouble in the seventh. Haynes and Bladel singled to chase Fondon from the game. Velazquez entered in relief and quickly surrendered an RBI single to the right side by Lowery. Herbek dropped a single into right field to plate the go-ahead run while advancing to second on the throw. Tenaglia singled to right field to score Lowery and Herbek. Foltz added an RBI single and freshman designated hitter Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) walked to chase Velazquez. Another walk by Conner Brown loaded the bases. After a strikeout, Haynes hit a fielder’s choice ground ball to second to score Foltz with the sixth run of the inning and 11th of the game.