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James Madison’s Odicci Alexander winds during the Dukes’ win over College of Charleston last season. The two-time CAA Player of the Year is a force in the circle and at the plate for the Dukes. 

The James Madison softball team has reached a special place for a powerhouse program: that spot where it can lose the best player in school history and the expectations don’t dwindle.

Not even a little bit.

“I wouldn’t say anything is different,” JMU senior pitcher Odicci Alexander said. “Of course we have some different players, but I think they’ve all bought into the process.”

Friday, when the 20th-ranked Dukes take on No. 17 Texas Tech, it will officially mark the start of the post-Megan Good era at JMU. A four-time All-American, four-time Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year and 2017 NFCA National Player of the Year, Good helped guide the Dukes to the NCAA Super Regionals last season.

But with most of its lineup other than Good back from a year ago, JMU has its sights set on the program’s first Women’s College World Series appearance. One big reason that seems like an attainable goal is Alexander, whose list of accomplishments is beginning to rival those of Good.

Alexander made it back-to-back CAA Player of the Year awards last spring after putting together a 24-1 record and 1.70 ERA in the pitcher’s circle and belting 14 home runs with 56 RBI at the plate.

A third-team All-American last season, Alexander and former Page County High School slugger Kate Gordon have become the faces of the program going for its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.

Gordon hit .420 with 23 homers as a junior and JMU head coach Loren LaPorte said power at the plate should once again be a signature for the Dukes.

“I think we are going to use the long ball again this year,” LaPorte said. “It’s a lot of what we talk about a lot. But what I think we did so well at the end of last year was we battled in our at-bats and fouled off a lot of pitches we didn’t want. I’m hoping that the stolen base category also goes up. I really want to increase the stolen base statistic this year and you can tell in scrimmages we are a little more aggressive on the bases.”

But as JMU prepares for an opening week at the Clearwater Elite Invitational in Florida, it should see its new-look pitching staff put to the test. After opening with the Red Raiders, JMU will face Kansas, Missouri, No. 19 South Carolina and North Carolina all in the span of four days.

Alexander likely takes her spot as the team’s ace, but the Dukes also added a pair of accomplished transfers to the staff. Junior Alexis Bermudez comes from Bethune-Cookman where she was the 2019 MEAC Pitcher of the Year. JMU also picked up Mississippi State transfer Kayla Boseman, who made 10 appearances for the Bulldogs as a freshman and was a top-40 recruit coming out of high school.

On the other side of the battery, freshman Emily Phillips moves into the starting catcher role after the Dukes lost senior Kierstin Roadcap, a Turner Ashby product, due to an offseason academic issue.

“Two transfer pitchers are going to be huge for us,” LaPorte said. “Alexis Bermudez has pitched in a lot of big games. We have some good freshmen. Emily Phillips will be behind the plate and is one of those players who would run through a brick wall for me. Not only me but also her teammates.”

First pitch for the Dukes and Red Raiders is Friday at 3 p.m. with the entire Clearwater tournament available to watch online on ESPN3.

Contact Shane Mettlen at 574-6244 or smettlen@dnronline.com. Follow Shane on Twitter: @Shane_DNRSports

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