HARRISONBURG — College of Charleston pitcher Drayton Siegling knew the importance of getting off to a good start against James Madison. And her off-speed delivery put the Dukes’ leadoff hitter Hannah File in a hole, down in the count with two strikes and no balls.
But File battled to bring the count full before delivering a single to left field. Kate Gordon followed with another single before Odicci Alexander drove them both in with a base hit up the middle. A promising start to the inning for the Cougars turned into three runs and five hits in the opening frame of top-seeded JMU’s 12-0 victory in the opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
For Charleston (26-29) and the rest of the CAA, it was another reminder of how quickly the Dukes deep lineup can turn a snowball into an offensive avalanche, particularly after the No. 5-seeded Cougars needed 11 innings to get past Drexel in the day’s first game.
“We knew coming in we were going to have to play two games,” Charleston coach Linda Kalafatis said. “We used our two best throwing pitchers in the first game and didn’t want to use them too much. The disadvantage of winning that four-versus-five game is you got to play the No. 1 seed and they are as good as I’ve seen them in the six years I’ve been in the league.”
Siegling, who came in with a 2.82 ERA, lasted only 1.2 innings, giving up five runs before making way for Kylie Burke, who didn’t fare much better, loading the bases with no outs in the third before plunking No. 9 hitter Madison Naujokas and getting the hook.
The Cougars wound up walking in four runs in the third before putting Siegling back in the circle to give it another shot, but by that point most everyone inside Veterans Memorial Park wwas thinking about matchups for the next day.
JMU (45-7) will face second-seeded Elon today at noon, putting the Dukes up against the only CAA team to take a game from them this season. But while other teams in the tournament practically exhausted their pitching staffs just trying to get through the first day of the double-elimination event, Alexander needed only 70 pitches to complete the five-inning two-hitter.
That leaves the Dukes heading into the rest of the tournament with fresh arms for four-time CAA Pitcher of the Year Megan Good and second-team all-conference pick Payton Buresch.
“We talk about playing JMU softball and having no mercy going into this tournament,” said JMU coach Loren LaPorte. “What I’m most proud of is the walks that we drew. We drew eight walks. We talk to our hitters all the time about getting our pitchers out of there as early as we can. Playing five innings, that’s very important and it’s huge to get Odicci out of there in 70 pitches.”
All nine hitters in the JMU lineup got on base while Page County product Gordon once again led the way for the Dukes offense. Gordon went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a two-run home run to set the school’s single-season record for runs scored with 57, but production from top to bottom put the rest of the CAA on notice.
“When everyone is on one through nine like we have been, we’re super dangerous,” Gordon said. “I’m just coming into the box super relaxed because I know the people in front of me and behind me in the lineup are going to get it done.”