Baseball: JMU completes weekend sweep of Tribe with two one-run losses

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Colin Lipke. COURTESY IMAGE / TRIBE ATHLETICS

The moment James Madison’s Bradley McKay connected with a crack on senior reliever Charlie Fletcher’s final pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning, the crowd noise alone said that the game had just ended. The single down the left field line drove in a James Madison runner, closing out the game Sunday 4-3 in extra innings and finishing off a Colonial Athletic Association series sweep of William and Mary. After the Tribe (14-23, 3-9 CAA) was blown out by James Madison (19-16, 5-7 CAA) in a 15-3 loss Friday, it suffered two more one-run losses Saturday and Sunday to go 0-3 on the weekend in Harrisonburg.

Saturday, an early run in the bottom of the first inning put the Tribe down 1-0. It rallied in the third inning, however, scoring three runs on hits from freshman infielder Matt McDermott and junior catcher Hunter Smith, putting the Tribe up 3-1. It looked like the Tribe was well on its way to redeeming itself from the blowout loss the day before, but two James Madison runs in the bottom of the fourth tied the game at 3-3, shaking the confidence of the visiting team.

The College would take the lead once more with a solid individual effort from McDermott, who singled and stole a base on his way to a tie-breaking run, putting the Tribe up 4-3. But James Madison had an immediate, back-breaking answer, as both their first and second batters of the inning hit back-to-back homers. The Dukes once again took the lead at 5-4.

The Tribe had two more innings to try and find a tying run, but four strikeouts in its final two chances at bat sunk the team. The final score of 5-4 would stand as James Madison took the field to celebrate another win.

Although the series had already gone to the Dukes, the College looked to salvage a crucial conference win Sunday in Game 3. James Madison the first to draw blood in Sunday’s matchup with two runs, including another homer, to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Senior outfielder Ryan Hall wouldn’t let that lead stand, however, knocking a two-run homer over the fence the next inning to immediately tie the game at 2-2.

The College took its first lead of the match in the top of the seventh, as senior outfielder Craig McLane scored his seventh run of the season to bring the College ahead, 3-2. The Tribe didn’t get to savor that for long, however. Minutes later, the Dukes tied the game once again, making it 3-3.

James Madison got a runner to third in the bottom of the eighth, but the College held fast to push the game all the way into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, the College stepped up to bat with the chance to claim what would have been just its fourth conference victory of the season. But the Tribe couldn’t find that all-important run in extras. The only chance came from junior infielder Colin Lipke, who managed to eke a single out of the Dukes’ pitcher.

But when Lipke was caught attempting to steal second, James Madison got their shot on the offensive. They managed to convert almost immediately, only needing three at-bats to get a runner home, taking the 4-3 win and completing the weekend sweep. Although the Tribe had made the final two games of the weekend close ones, it couldn’t find a victory in either one-run opportunity.

McDermott tied for his season-best batting performance with three hits in Saturday’s matchup, while Hall and sophomore infielder Patrick Ryan had hit their season bests with four hits apiece in Friday’s game. Despite impressive performances from these core parts of the College’s lineup, the Tribe’s conference record now falls to 3-9 on the season, making it the lowest ranked team in the conference.

After a midweek matchup against Norfolk State, the College will travel to Boston for another CAA matchup in enemy territory against Northeastern. With only four conference series remaining in the season, the Tribe will look to pick up some crucial victories as it builds on the positives from this weekend.

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