May 31 / Rob

Your Bandwagon Guide to the JMU Baseball Postseason

The Diamond Dukes are red hot, fresh off CAA regular season and tournament championships, and headed down to Chapel Hill, NC to play in the NCAA tournament. It sounds like the perfect time for fans everywhere to jump on the bandwagon. At the risk of offending all of the hard-core fans out there, here is just enough info to help you fake your way through this weekend’s regionals or bask in the glory as the Dukes march on to Omaha.

CAA Tournament Victory

JMU capped an outstanding regular season with a dominating performance in the CAA tournament last weekend. The Dukes’ offense led the way all season, but pitcher Sean Tierney threw a complete game shut-out to help JMU defeat Georgia State 4-0 in the tournament opener. JMU advanced to the winners’ bracket to face UNCW in game 2. The Dukes offense overwhelmed the Seahawks in a comfortable 13-7 win. Catcher Jake Lowery and Johnny Bladel each had 4 hits to pace JMU and fellow slugger Dave Herbek knocked in 5 runs. The victory meant that JMU moved on to the championship to face ODU. Because JMU entered the final match-up without a loss, ODU would have to beat them twice to take the title. JMU took all the drama out of it and crushed them 10-1 to win the CAA Championship in one game.

How the NCAA Tournament Works

The Dukes secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as a result of their CAA Championship. While it all culminates with the College World Series, the tournament actually involves 64 teams. The tournament can be sort of confusing for folks who aren’t familiar with it, but it’s actually pretty simple. The first round, called the Regionals, involves 16 double-elimination tournaments of four teams each. The winners of each Region move on to the Super Regionals, with the other 48 teams heading home. The Super Regionals consist of 8 head to head match-ups between the winners of the Regionals. The teams play a 3 game series, with the 8 winners moving onto the College World Series and the losers eliminated. The World Series uses the same format as the Regionals, with the teams divided into 2 four team brackets for a double-elimination tournament. The winners of each tournament play a 3 game series for the National Championship.

The Dukes’ Strengths and Weaknesses

So, now that we’ve cleared that up, here is what you need to know about JMU. The Dukes’ regional bracket consists of UNC, Florida Interational, and Maine. The Dukes will start things off with a game against FIU Friday afternoon. JMU will likely go as far as their bats take them. The team was an offensive juggernaut all season. Their team batting average of .321 was fourth in the nation. They scored 522 runs which lead the nation and worked out to a ridiculous 9.15 a game. It’s a good thing, because the pitching wasn’t as impressive. The staff ERA of 5.77, good enough for 242nd in the nation. But, and there is always a but, the Dukes pitching was much better down the stretch. They gave up fewer than 3 runs in 6 of their last 8 games.

Name to Know

With a .321 team average, lots of guys in the lineup can hit. The Dukes’ big star is catcher Jake Lowery however. He was the CAA Player of the Year and was named a finalist for the 2011 Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player. He led the nation in Runs, RBI, and Total Bases. He also was second in homers and had a eye-popping 1.240 OPS. In short, the guy can flat out rake and he could easily get hot in Chapel Hill and lead the Dukes on a run to Omaha.

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