Downed by the Dukes
The fourth-seeded Towson Tigers fell to the top-seeded James Madison Dukes 3-2 in the first game of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Harrisonburg, Va.
The game was a stark contrast from the three-game series the two teams played in early April where the Dukes outscored the Tigers 30-2.
Junior Missy McCormick, the Tigers’ No. 1 starter, allowed two earned runs over six innings. In her last two starts against JMU, McCormick pitched a combined eight and two-thirds innings and allowed 14 earned runs.
“She threw great today,” Head Coach Lisa Costello said. “She had a better command of the zone and she’s improved steadily ever since that weekend.”
The Dukes (42-13) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when first baseman Cassidy Clayton hit an RBI double to right center.
After a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third for JMU in the third inning, catcher Erica Field hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run.
An error by Tigers’ freshman catcher Holiday Cahill on the same play gave JMU a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers’ (27-24) first scoring opportunity came in the fourth inning when they had runners on first and second with two outs. Freshman left fielder Jessica South lined out to center field to end the rally.
With senior right fielder Maureen Hepner on second base in the sixth inning, McCormick dropped a single into right field. Hepner scored on a throwing error by Dukes’ right fielder Taylor Newton to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Senior third baseman Delanie Dunham and Cahill struck out to end the inning.
South led off the seventh inning with a solo home run to left field to cut the Dukes’ lead to 3-2. South went 2-for-3 at the plate.
The Tigers got the tying run on base with one out when sophomore second baseman Nicole Delgado reached on an error by Dukes’ center fielder Niki Prince. Junior center fielder Olivia Yarbrough hit a bunt single to put
runners on first and second for the Tigers with one out.
Junior shortstop Hailey Balk struck out to make it two outs in the inning.
The Tigers’ comeback attempt ended with Hepner grounding out to shortstop.
“The two-out RBIs will happen eventually,” Costello said. “They just didn’t happen today.”
Despite outhitting the Dukes 8-5, the Tigers could not come up with the big hit when they needed it.
The Tigers left seven runners on base against the Dukes’ No. 1 pitcher, Jailyn Ford. Ford pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run and striking out eight.
“The difference was taking advantage of opportunities,” Balk said. “We left seven runners on base and it’s hard to win a game when you do that. Ford is just an elite pitcher among the nation and she just gets better in crucial situations.”
Ford was 21-6 in the regular season with a 1.28 earned run average.
She led the CAA in wins, earned run average and strikeouts.
The Tigers will play their second CAA tournament game Thursday against the second-seeded College of Charleston Cougars, who lost to third-seeded Hofstra, 8-4.
“We need to take everything we did right today and carry it into tomorrow,” Dunham said. “We need to keep hitting the ball like we are not the let the pitcher settle in.”
The Tigers dropped three games in early May to the College of Charleston (40-14, 14-4 CAA).
McCormick will take the mound again. She hopes to salvage the season for the Tigers. A loss Thursday would knock the Tigers out of the CAA tournament.
In her last start against the College of Charleston on May 2, McCormick threw six innings and allowed three earned runs in a 3-1 loss.
First pitch is at 2:30 p.m.