Sophomore pitcher Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) tied her own school record with her 24th win of the season and senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) smacked a pair of doubles to lead the JMU softball team to a 6-1 over DePaul in the opening game of the Lexington Regional at John Cropp Stadium on the campus of the University of Kentucky, Friday.
The Dukes ran their winning streak to 16 straight, two shy of the school record, and improved to 45-13 overall. They advance to the winners’ bracket game at 1 p.m. on Saturday where they await the winner of the game between Ohio and Kentucky. DePaul falls to 41-10 and moves into the losers’ bracket game at 3:30 p.m.
This is the second time the softball program has earned a win in the NCAA Tournament and their first win in the opening-round game. Ford picked up the win in the circle for Madison to improve to 24-6 overall. She limited the Blue Demons to one run on six hits in seven innings of work. It was the left-hander’s 21st complete game as she struck out seven and walked three.
Verdun took the loss for DePaul, falling to 30-6 on the year. She gave up six runs on seven hits in six innings pitched. The lefty struck out six and walked seven.
Offensively, the Dukes were paced by Sandy who went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored. The Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year now has 33 career doubles, ranking her seventh all-time at JMU. Ford added a hit and a walk to go with a RBI and a run scored in three at-bats while freshman right fielder Taylor Newton (Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch) was 1-for-2 with a home run, a walk and two run scored.
Verdun paced the DePaul attack with two doubles, a walk and a run scored in three plate appearances. First baseman Mary Connolly went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a RBI while third baseman Morgan Maize had a double in three at-bats.
DePaul opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as Verdun led off the game with a double to left field. After a foul-out, Connolly doubled down the left-field line to drive in her pitcher.
The Dukes came back to tie the score with a run in the second, as they tacked on at least a run in each of the next five innings. Ford led off the second with a walk and moved to third on a double to left-center by Sandy. After a strikeout, senior first baseman Cassidy Clayton (Acton, Mass./Acton Boxborough) pulled a grounder past the first baseman for a RBI single to make it 1-1.
Madison took the lead on Ford’s RBI single with one out in the top of the third. She drove in sophomore second basemanHannah Hayes (LaCrosse, Va./Kenston Forrest) who led off with a walk before stealing second.
Two more runs came in to score for JMU in the fourth on a pair of bases loaded walks before Newton made it 5-1 with her eighth home run of the season in the fifth inning. Her eight homers this year is the fourth most by a Madison rookie.
Sophomore catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) capped the scoring with a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth.
Ford handle the rest for the Dukes, setting down seven of the final eight batters she faced in the game.