James Madison’s bid for a second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Softball tournament title came up just short as the top-seeded Dukes fell 2-1 to second-seeded Hofstra on Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park.
The Pride improved to 37-12-1 en route to capturing their 11th CAA title in history while the Dukes fell to 47-8 on the year and was the tournament runner-up for the third time since 2002.
Both teams combined for just 10 hits in the defensive struggle as Taylor Pirone, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer, moved to 18-10 on the year after allowing one run on five hits in 4.2 inning of work while freshman pitcher Megan Good fell to 28-2 after conceding two runs on five hits and two walks.
Lacey Clark led the Hofstra offense by going 2-for-3 with two RBIs while Caryn Bailey walked twice.
Hofstra opened the scoring with a run in the first. After Chloe Fitzgerald singled down the left field line and moved to second on a sacrifice, Clark drove her home with a two-out, RBI single through the right side for a 1-0 lead.
The Pride extended the lead to 2-0 in the third. With runners on first and second with two outs, Clark hit a bloop single to left field, scoring Fitzgerald for the second time in the game. A ground out to third prevented any more damage as Hofstra stranded two runners in scoring position in the frame.
The Dukes finally got on the board in the fifth, trimming the deficit in half. JMU put runners on the corners with two outs in the frame, Field delivered a RBI single through the left side, scoring sophomore pinch runner Caitlin Viafora from third to make it 2-1.
Hofstra was able to get out of the frame, leaving two JMU runners on base after making the pitching change to bring in Morgan Lashley.
Lashley came in to retire all seven batters, five by way of strikeouts, in 2.1 innings pitched, but the Dukes had one last-ditch effort to tie the game in the seventh.
With one out Tolle lifted a fly ball deep to left field but Fitzgerald got under it at the warning track. Lashley clinched Hofstra’s title on the ensuing at-bat with her fifth strikeout to end the seventh.
The Dukes and Pride, who both hold top-25 RPI rankings, will find out their postseason fates on Sunday, March 10 for the NCAA Softball Championship Selection Show, which will air at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.