The dominant women of JMU softball overcame a slightly shaky day in the field with more of the prodigious power they’ve shown this postseason and then ruthlessly tacked on runs late to win their first-ever NCAA Regional at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg 5-1 over fellow Virginia dreamer Longwood. With the win, the nation’s #7 overall seed advances to next weekend’s Super Regional where they’ll welcome none other than the SEC’s LSU Tigers to the Valley for a best-of-three series. The stakes couldn’t be higher as the winner of the series will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City the first weekend in June (which just so happens to be the Madison Alumni Conference back in the ‘Burg where we will definitely be for the first time just sayin’). And for anyone thinking the Dukes will be nervous against a true blue-blood of college athletics, just keep in mind the Dukes are 2-1 versus the SEC this year with wins over fellow tourney teams Auburn and Tennessee and a tight loss to Alabama. In all seriousness, a best-of-three might be the ideal format for the Dukes as we’ll take the 1-1A pitching combo of sophomore Megan Good (who didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in today’s regional final!) and senior Jailyn Ford against anyone anywhere in that format. Today’s game was fraught with huge nerves early but both pitchers were stellar throughout the first few innings. A couple of uncommon fielding miscues gave Longwood a 1-0 lead though thankfully Megan Good worked out of a jam to limit the damage. Then the power took over as Jessica Mrozek took her Daniel Murphy-esque postseason to another level with a clutch bomb (I’m talking enormous bomb) to tie the game at 1 and then Erica Field did what Erica Field does with a dinger to calm everyone’s nerves and give the Dukes the lead 2-1. After both coaches got in the umps face over an “inconsistent” strike zone the Lancers made the ill-fated decision to take out their starter and the Dukes took advantage. The bottom part of the JMU lineup went nuts in the top of the seventh (the Dukes were technically the “visitors” in the tourney in Game 1 today) with nine-hitter Hannah Hayes coming through with the Geico Insurance RBIs that gave Good all she needed to close out the Lancers. Needless to say, when the Dukes lineup produces they way they did this weekend to go with Good and Ford, us old-timers get a very ’94 Field Hockey feeling about this group! (Again, just sayin’) Rob and I are almost inappropriately excited to welcome a truly worthy tailgating adversary to the ‘Burg next weekend in the form of the Bayou Bengals for the first time in what seems like forever. The neutral site football game versus West Virginia at FedEx was great but not since ’08 App. St. have we really seen a school that forces us to break out the big guns in the form of seafood-boil pots, open-flame charcoal, and homemade liquor. LSU took out Arizona St. in their own regional today to earn the trip to the Commonwealth but for all their pedigree, we’re not really sure they understand just what kind of purple-and-gold insanity their walking into this time around. Rob will be back later this week with a full breakdown of the squirrel/blue-crab/Massanutten-creek-peach brandy vs. nutria/crawfish/homemade-absinthe craziness (and also the game haha), but suffice to say this is going to be an all-timer you don’t want to miss over the upcoming holiday weekend. Oh yeah, and the Diamond Dukes baseball squad put a hurting on Hofstra this weekend too in order to advance to the CAA Baseball tourney in Charleston in Coach Ikenberry’s first season too so we’ve got all kinds of pleasantly unexpected Dukes action still to come!
JMU Softball will play in the regional final for the first time in program history today at 2 p.m. in Harrisonburg against none other than an in-state Cinderella in the Longwood Lancers. Coverage available on MadiZoneHD. More than half of the NCAA field of 64 will have been eliminated when the Dukes (presumably) send a rested and ready Senior badass Jailyn Ford into the circle this afternoon. By night’s end, we’ll be down to the Sweet 16, a place neither the Dukes nor the Lancers have ever been.
How They Got Here
The #7 Dukes (48-4 overall now!l) are 2-0 in the Harrisonburg Regional (saying that never gets old) with a 7-0 shutout of Princeton in Game 1 that featured a Grand Slam from RF Taylor Newton and a run-ruling walkoff over the UNC Tarheels in Game 2 that ALSO featured a Grand Slam from DH Jessica Mrozek. Going back to the start of the CAA Tournament last weekend the Dukes are now 5-0 and have outscored opponents by a combined score of 41-3. Senior all-everything Jailyn Ford also recorded her 800th career strikeout today. That seems like a lot.
The Lancers (40-19 overall) dropped their opener to UNC 6-4 before rallying huge yesterday with a 2-1 defeat of Princeton and thrilling 5-4 win over UNC in extra innings last night. Longwood led the game 4-0 before the Tarheels tied it late but the Lancers dug deep to earn the right to face the favored Dukes.
Quick Note of Format
As you may have noticed reading about Longwood’s path, the Regionals of the NCAA tourney are a double-elimination format like the Women’s College World Series. That means the Dukes can win the title outright if they put a second loss on Longwood at 2 p.m. today, but should the Lancers win, it would set up a rematch following that game that would be winner-take-all.
What’s At Stake
For the Dukes, a win today would do so, so many things. First, it would be a program first trip to the “Super Regional” round of the NCAA tourney. Second, that SuperRegional best of three series against the winner of the Baton Rouge Regional would be right back home in the Valley (where the Dukes are 16-0 and 5-0 in the postseason this year) next weekend thanks to that #7 overall seed where they would likely be favored again with a chance to go to the College World Series! The Baton Rouge Regional final today features the homestanding LSU Tigers (2-0) and the Arizona St. SunDevils (2-1), a team JMU defeated earlier this year. That means with one win today, JMU would host either ASU or LSU next weekend. That’s pretty much the world Top 3 of tailgate schools and would make for a hell of a holiday weekend!
The two of us don’t know enough softball to dive deep or make predictions, but we do know sophomore pitching sensation Megan Good will be rested and ready to go in Game 1 today while Longwood’s staff has worked an extra game this weekend, including the extra-innings affair last night. We also know the bats, which were really are bigger concern entering the tourney, have heated up throughout the lineup and this Dukes team seems locked in this year. Would also be nice to keep this Grand Slam thing going. Go Dukes!
Well, this is pretty cool. JMU junior golfer Ryan Cole qualified for Nationals. Cole managed to finished tied for second in the NCAA Franklin Regional after shooting a final round 69 (nice) to finish with a three round score of 202. That ended up being the best three round total of Cole’s career. It was largely due to his ridiculous score of 64 in round two.
Cole now is all set to play for a National Championship. The final tournament will take place in Eugene, Oregon starting May 27. Qualifying for Nationals is a bid deal and something Cole (and JMU fans) should be proud of. Both teams and individuals can qualify. Cole earned the right to play as an individual. He’ll be joined in Eugene by fellow CAA golfer Will Rainey from CofC. We’ll be pulling for both guys next week.
The take-no-prisoners, anyone, anytime, anywhere JMU Softball Dukes won’t actually have to worry about the “anywhere” part of their mantra during the next two weeks. That’s because when Coach Mickey Dean’s squad earned the #7 national seed overall in the NCAA Softball Tournament. In turn, that means they will not only host a double-elimination regional this coming weekend like last year, but if they can advance out of the group that includes opening opponent Princeton plus North Carolina and fellow VA-public Longwood, they would ALSO HOST the winner of the Baton Rouge regional (yup, that Baton Rouge) in the “Harrisonburg SuperRegional” in a best of three series on Memorial Day weekend for the right to advance to Oklahoma City for the College World Series.
First, the regional presents a tantalizing opportunity for the Dukes to advance as the pretty solid favorite and quite a few storylines. The first game against the Ivy League champs Princeton is definitely a break for the Dukes in the regionalization of the first rounds as the #7 Dukes catch one of only two teams in the tourney with a sub-.500 overall record. If they can beat the Tigers, they’ll face two teams that were on the schedule this year but the Dukes never actually played through two crazy circumstances. First, the Tarheels tried twice to make the trip to the ‘Burg but were literally “smoked out” by the wildfire that terrorized the Shenandoah Valley a couple weeks ago. The snobs in Chapel Hill won’t get off that easy! Of course, we’d almost forgotten till this bravo tweet from @LancersBlog that the Dukes made a VERY quick rainout call, thus avoiding a matchup with Longwood on a day it never actually rained, earlier this season.
@JMUsportsblog will there be "rainouts"
— LancersBlog (@LancersBlog) May 16, 2016
IF, and that’s said with all the usual playoff caveats, the Dukes could get through this weekend, and IF the seeds hold, none other than the LSU Tigers would be forced to leave the bayou and travel north to the Valley for a best-of-three Super Regional. This Memorial Day weekend extravaganza would be both the largest-ever celebration of purple and gold and easily the greatest softball tailgate competition in the history of the known world. (And we’re extremely confident no one, and we mean no one, can EVER out-tailgate JMU in the ‘Burg).
So despite the fact the ESPNU haters mentioned that “the Dukes avoided the SEC” (JMU beat tourney-participants Auburn and Tennessee by run-rule) and that they failed to mention the Dukes absolutely wrecked the vaunted PAC12 with wins over tourney teams from Arizona, Arizona St., and Oregon, we can’t wait to see what the Dukes do in beautiful Veterans Memorial Park over the next two weekends.
And if you haven’t figured out the Jailyn Ford/Jimmy Chitwood similarities yet, you just aren’t paying attention.
Brian Hansen is our go-to guy when it comes to all things JMU and NCAA softball. Here’s his quick look at how the NCAA tournament might shakeout prior to the field being announced this evening.
So the softball Dukes cruised through the CAA Championship and I’m not sure the tournament could have gone any better for JMU. Most importantly, the Dukes went 3-0 in the tournament and avoided adding a loss to its resume. Second, the results of the tournament also broke Madison’s way since they didn’t end up having to play Elon, preventing them from adding another 100+ RPI game to its resume. The only thing that could have gone better is if JMU got to play Charleston twice instead of Towson since Charleston is slightly higher in the RPI than Towson, but the margins there may not be of value.
The selection show is set for this evening at 10 p.m. and will air on ESPNU and before I take my guess at how I think the selection is going to go, here is a quick breakdown of how the tournament works. The committee will select 64 teams with 32 teams receiving automatic bids and 32 at-large bids. The top 16 teams will be ranked by the committee and will host regionals. Each regional is a 4 team, double-elimination, mini tournament. The 16 teams that win the regionals advance to Super Regionals which is a best-of-three series with the winner of the #1 regional drawing the winner of the #16 regional and so forth until you get to the eight-nine matchup.
Eight teams will advance from Super Regionals to the Women’s College World Series and eventually those eight teams will whittle down to two teams who will play a best-of-three series in the championship round.
The 16 Regional hosts
So I’m not going to try to predict how all 16 regionals are going to end up. Instead, I’m going to start by just predicting who will be the top 16 teams that will end up hosting regionals. The key line to keep in mind here, is that the top eight seeds, if they win their regionals, will be guaranteed to host their Super Regional. JMU is, unless some true shenanigans take place, going to host a regional. The truly interesting point is whether or not they’ll be at eight or higher. I think the Dukes will get there with the top 16 seeds looking like this:
#1 – Florida
#2 – Michigan
#3 – Oklahoma
#4 – Auburn
#5 – Oregon
#6 – Alabama
#7 – James Madison
#8 – Florida State
#9 – Washington
#10 – Tennessee
#11 – LSU
#12 – UL Lafayette
#13 – Baylor
#14 – UCLA
#15 – Missouri
#16 – Kentucky
So who’s coming to Harrisonburg …
The key here is to look at that 16 line and whether or not Kentucky edges out Fresno State and a couple other teams to get that last hosting spot. This is because if Kentucky doesn’t get a hosting spot, they’ll be in strong consideration to be one of the teams to travel to Harrisonburg for a regional. If the Wildcats do get hosting duties, they’d be, in my opinion, the best team not to host. They are an all-around good team with a deep pitching staff, that is going to give somebody hell if they don’t end up hosting.
The selection committee is also charged with trying to limit the number of teams it has to fly to its region. The travel radius for busing to a site instead of flying is about 400 miles, so it’s best to start there. Based on how I have the bracket falling, there is really only one team that would be a two-seed and that fits inside that travel radius and that’s South Carolina. Kentucky is just outside that travel radius at 415 miles, but JMU bused to Lexington 2 years ago, so I guess that radius can be stretched. Now, if South Carolina ends up busing to a different site that is in JMU’s radius, then all bets are off and any team on the two seed could end up in Harrisonburg because they’d all be flying and there is no discernable difference to the NCAA between flying in, say, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
The three seed has a few more options in the same travel radius, but the one that makes the most sense to me is North Carolina. JMU didn’t play them this year (unlike two other options) after having the doubleheader rained out and they fit in perfectly in the travel radius.
The four seed is a crap shoot with Longwood, USC Upstate, Princeton and maybe St. Joseph’s (if they win the Atlantic Championship game today, all fitting inside the radius. My guess is it’ll be Longwood, but I also would have said that last year when Fordham came to JMU. My thought is the Harrisonburg Regional will look like this:
#7 James Madison
Other possibilities at two include Kentucky if they slide to a two seed. Georgia would really be stretching the travel radius. Ohio State, Virginia Tech already played JMU, but could also end up as the three seed along with Louisville if they get in and the committee doesn’t mind stretching the radius some more. The four seed makes the most sense if it is Longwood, but some of the previously mentioned alternatives exist along with Miami (OH), Fordham and Army depending on who wins the Patriot and Atlantic 10.
Just because something is expected, doesn’t mean it’s any less important or awesome. The heavily favored JMU Dukes softball team took down Towson 8-0 to capture the 2016 CAA Championship. Jailyn Ford was once again lights out from the circle. The senior surrendered only one hit and racked up 11 strikeouts. Taylor Newton led the Dukes bats with 4 RBI. In addition to pitching a stellar game, Ford drew a walk with the bases loaded walk to force in a run and secure the run-rule victory for JMU.
The win gave the Dukes their third CAA title overall and second in a row. They also secured the leagues automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their record now sits at a ridiculous 46-4. JMU stormed through the tournament, thanks to typically outstanding pitching and some hot bats. The ladies batted .373 as a team for the tourney.
As we mentioned, JMU was a heavy favorite and the presumptive champ from day one this season. That doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. They’ve lived up to expectations so far. Now it’s time to see what sort of draw they get in the NCAAs and root for a run.
Unfortunately, the good vibes didn’t carry all the way out to California for the JMU Lacrosse team. The lax ladies comeback fell just short and they lost to Stanford 9-8 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game was played in the historic LA Coliseum. While we’re sure the Coach Shelly and the women are crushed right now, playing in that venue is a memory that will last a lifetime. And earning an NCAA at-large bid is proof that they earned plenty of respect for their play on the field this season.
That right there is a picture from an actual JMU Football ticket poster back in the day. And we’re quite confident in saying it’s the most 80s thing we’ve seen in ages. Maybe ever. Seriously. If you stare at it long enough, we swear you’ll actually hear REO Speedwagon in the background.
If there were three more appropriate people to build an 80s era football ticketing campaign around, we’d be shocked. If there were three more appropriate people to build an 80s era campaign for anything at all, we’d be shocked. The head cheerleader, captain of the football team, and um, I don’t know, girl ready to party? It’s almost too perfect.
But don’t be fooled. If the 80s (or more appropriately 80s movies) taught America anything, it’s that everyone is different than they appear. The cute head cheerleader who’s the most popular girl on campus and engaged to Mr. Perfect? Yeah, she’s actually miserable and won’t find her true self until she flees graduation with some John Cusack like plucky little underdog dude. Yes, that guy in the middle plays football, drives a Camaro, drinks all the beers, and beats up nerds. But deep down inside, he just wants to write poetry. And party girl on the right with a chip on her shoulder and a bad reputation? Wrong. She’s actually a straight A student who’s crafted that bad girl image to hide her elegant beauty. We just won’t notice it until the cheerleader gives her a makeover.
Yeah, at first glance this poster might look a little dated. Some might go so far as to say it’s kind of wrong by today’s standards. But if this picture is wrong, then we don’t want to be right. We don’t know if it helped sell tickets decades ago. But we’ll be damned if we didn’t renew our JMU football season tickets today. So it works now.
h/t @MikeChatburn who posted this picture of the poster he actually has
No guarantees here, but we’re gonna try and give you a daily update (at least on gamedays) for as long as these rare, late post-graduation runs from Lacrosse and Softball last. We’re starting now because our high hopes for softball in particular will be greatly enhanced if the Dukes handle their business in the CAA tourney (and conversely will suffer a bit of a blow if they get knocked out of the top 8 and potentially hosting a Super Regional by falling to any of these also-rans in the conference tournament in the ‘Burg these next few days). So stay tuned to this ambitious plan (and be ready to more disappointed than you’ve ever been in Benioff and Weiss when we miss out on something big of course).
Today Lacrosse flew cross-country to get ready for their first-round matchup with Stanford coming up on Friday. So cool they’re playing in the LA Coliseum, home of a few moments you may have heard of like two Olympic Games, Super Bowl I, USC football in all its forms, NWA-era Raiders, more WideWorldofSports motocross events than you can count (what? we’re old), and of course the new Rams just to name a few.
Softball on the other hand got their postseason run off to a solid start with a 2-0 win over the Delaware Blue Chickens after working around two rain delays. Senior Pitcher Jailyn Ford (winner of the fan-voting portion of the Senior Class Award nationally though we know what happens when a JMU/CAA rep does well in that “portion”) threw a Scherzer-esque one hitter to put the Dukes into the winners’ bracket where they’ll play possible the key game of the tournament against #2 Towson at noon on Thursday. Go Dukes! (and warm up those bats though it was good to see Hannah Hayes and Jess Mrozek involved in the offense outside of the usual suspects!)
Brian Hansen is back with another guest post about JMU’s juggernaut of a softball program. The ladies finished the regular season 43-4. Here Brian breaks down phase 1 of the postseason, the CAA tourney.
At the start of this season, I wrote about how I thought this could be a special team and that they could have a special year. I mentioned that Oklahoma City and the College World Series was a goal for this team, but even I did not expect this team to go out there and claim a top 10 ranking and go 43-4 against a really tough schedule. I had high expectations for this team and yet they still managed to exceed them. This team is doing something special and I’m excited that we’ve finally reached the postseason and Coach Dean and his team can start their run. read more…
(Update: unfortunately, the Giants decided not to sign Vad.)
Word broke late last week that Vad Lee had earned an invitation to the NY Giants Rookie Minicamp. As a diehard Giants’ fan, this was pretty exciting for me personally. But it’s not about me. It’s about Vad, an all-time great Duke, getting his shot at the NFL.
The Giants already signed Josh Woodrum out of Liberty to an undrafted free agent deal after the NFL Draft. In addition, they gave Vad and South Florida’s B.J. Daniels tryouts over the weekend. It’s unclear if either one of them played well enough to earn an undrafted free agent contract of their own. One of the three might have a legit shot of making the final 54 man roster. The Giants only carried two QBs last year. In addition to two time Super Bowl MVP Eli Mannning, Big Blue had former Syracuse signal caller Ryan Nassib as the only other QB on the roster. He’ll be on the final year of his rookie deal this season, so the team is expected to consider keeping a third QB.
Interestingly enough, Vad and the entire JMU football program have a connection to the Giants. One of Vad’s backups last year was redshirt freshman QB Jerry Reese Jr. Reese is the son of Giants’ General Manager Jerry Reese. That’s not going to give Vad any advantage whatsoever, but it’s an interesting connection that I somehow had completely missed.
Much like with Dominick Richards and Washington, the odds against Vad making the team are pretty steep. But nothing is impossible. In fact, Lee and Richards only need to look toward their former JMU teammate Daniel Brown for proof that guys can go from minicamp tryout to playing on Sundays. Brown did it last year with the Ravens.