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JMU wins wild one with Cornell

James Madison took the lead with a five-run fifth inning and held off Cornell for a 13-12 win in a non-conference baseball game on Wednesday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.

JMU won its third in a row to improve to 17-5 overall and 12-3 at home while sweeping the brief two-game set. Cornell dropped to 1-11 on the season.

It was a back-and-forth game for much of the early innings and both teams combined to score in 11 of a possible 17 innings. JMU led 4-2 when Cornell took control with a four-run fourth. The Big Red added two in the fifth to take an 8-5 lead.

With skies and severe weather watches threatening the game throughout, JMU came up big with five key runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 10-8 lead as the game became official. The Dukes added three in the sixth to take a 13-9 lead and held off Cornell, which added two in the seventh and one in the ninth before ending the game with a runner on second.

Senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) reached base in all six plate appearances for JMU. He had three RBIs on a double and a two-run home run. It was his ninth of the season to match teammate Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) for the national lead. He also walked twice and was hit by a pitch twice to move into third in CAA career history with 47.

Sophomore Nick Slogik (Strongsville, Ohio/St. Edward) worked four innings of relief to earn the win and improve to 2-0. He allowed three runs on five hits. Sophomore D.J. Brown (Locust Grove, Va./Orange County) struck out three in the ninth for his first save of the season.

Junior center fielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) was 2-for-3 with two runs, two RBIs, and two walks. Lowery also had two hits with a double for the Dukes while sophomore second baseman Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) also had a pair of hits and scored. Freshman designated hitter Nick Merullo (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand) was 1-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs. Shaban and Merullo were each hit by a pitch as Cornell struck six JMU batters in the game.

Center fielder Brian Billigen went 3-for-6 for Cornell with two home runs and a double while driving in five of the Big Red’s season-high 12 runs. Right fielder Mickey Brodsky also had three hits. Left fielder Ben Swinford doubled twice, drove in one, scored three times and walked twice. Third baseman Frank Hager added two hits.

Mike Carroll took the loss for the Big Red with five runs allowed, three earned, on four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

After a scoreless first, Cornell got a four-pitch leadoff walk by Swinford in the second and a single by first baseman Ryan Plantier. Shortstop Marshall Yanzick singled through the right side to drive in one run and a sacrifice fly by second baseman Tom D’Alessandro made it 2-0 Big Red.

JMU answered in the bottom of the second as freshman first baseman Tyler McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) led off with a double and reached third on a bobble by the center fielder. Merullo then hit a tapper to the left side for the RBI and reached on a throwing error by the third baseman. After a single by Shaban, another single by sophomore right fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) drove in Merullo for a 2-2 tie.

In the third, Cornell hit each of JMU’s first two batters, including Herbek for the second time. After a double play, freshman third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) was hit to put runners on the corners. A delayed double steal then allowed Herbek to score to make it 3-2. On the next pitch, Merullo hit a bouncer up the middle to drive in Brown and make it 4-2.

In the Cornell fourth, Swinford doubled to the gap in left center. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Plantier. Lopez added an RBI double to right to make it 4-4. Billigen then lifted a high fly ball to left that carried over the fence in the steady winds for a two-run homer and a 6-4 lead.

With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Lowery and Herbek hit consecutive doubles to left to bring pull the Dukes within a run at 6-5.

Cornell struck again in the fifth. Back-to-back walks led off the frame. After a sacrifice bunt, a single through the left side by D’Alessandro made it 7-5 and a sacrifice fly by catcher Mike Lopez to right made it 8-5.

JMU put two runners on to lead off the fifth with a walk and a hit batter. Shaban laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt but beat it out for a hit to load the bases with no outs. Haynes then singled through the right side to drive in two runs and make it 8-7. Sophomore pinch hitter Billy Logan (Greenup, Ky./Greenup County) lifted a sacrifice fly to right to tie the score. Herbek then smacked the first pitch from new pitcher Daniel Filous to left field for his ninth round tripper of the season and a 10-8 lead.

Hager led off the Cornell sixth with a double on a high fly that dropped between Herbek at shortstop and Haynes in center. After a pair of outs, he scored on a double off the wall in center by Swinford for a 10-9 score.

The back-and-forth scoring continued for JMU in the sixth. Brown led off with a walk and moved to second with two outs on a groundout. After another walk, freshman right fielder Joe Townsend (Lorton, Va./South County) blooped a single to right to score Brown and make it 11-9. Lowery added a single to right to make it 12-9. Herbek walked to load the bases, and new pitcher Connor Kaufmann walked sophomore left fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) to bring in the 13th run.

With one out in the seventh, D’Alessandro walked and Billigen lifted a two-out, two-run homer to right center for a 13-11 score. It was his third home run in two games.

In the ninth, D’Alessandro drew a one-out walk again and Billigen hit a two-out double to the gap in left center to make it 13-12 and give him five RBIs on the day. Hager was hit by a pitch to put the potential go-ahead run on base. However, run recovered to strike out designated hitter Brandon Lee swinging on four pitches to record the save.

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