WILMINGTON, N.C. – James Madison plated six runs in the second inning and Alex Valadja limited Old Dominion to four hits over six innings to record a 10-1 win and capture the 2011 Colonial Athletic Association baseball championship on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Field.
JMU (40-17) improved the nation’s longest winning streak to nine games and won for the 13th consecutive time against CAA teams. The Dukes captured the CAA’s automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Championship and will learn their destination during Monday’s 12:30 p.m. selection show on ESPN.
After each team stranded a runner on second in the first inning, the Dukes got things started with the tournament’s biggest inning. Designated hitter Ty McFarland doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single to center by fellow freshman Conner Brown. Cole McInturff singled and Johnny Bladel sent a three-run home run the opposite way to right field. Jake Lowery dropped a single between three fielders in left and David Herbek followed that with another opposite-field homer to right for a 6-0 score.
It was JMU’s second championship in the program’s history to go along with the title won in 2008 at Brooks Field as the No. 2 seed. This time the Dukes became the first top-seed to capture the title since VCU in 2003. JMU is now 8-2 combined in the three CAA Tournament appearances over the last four years. The Dukes reached 40 wins for the seventh time in program history and the second time in 14 seasons under head coach Spanky McFarland
Valadja (7-3) persevered through the early innings, including ODU (30-26) leaving the bases loaded with one out in the second inning. He fought his way through six innings allowing one run on four hits while matching his career high with nine strikeouts and earning All-Tournament honors.
Four pitchers worked in relief to keep ODU at bay. Meanwhile, JMU added an insurance run in the fifth and three more in the seventh to put away the 10-1 victory.
Bladel, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, hit .615 (8-for-13) with a double, home run, six runs scored and three steals in three attempts during the championship weekend. He also pitched three quick outs in the eighth inning.
Three other Dukes solidified their All-Tournament performances with their efforts. Lowery’s pair of singles broke the JMU and CAA record for season total bases with 187. Herbek hit a two-run home run in the six-run second inning, and first baseman Matt Tenaglia had multiple hits for the third time in the tournament and scored twice.
McFarland went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt, a double and three RBIs. In addition to Brown’s RBI single, he also drove in a run with a hit by pitch.
Starter Louis Singleton took the loss for the Monarchs to fall to 2-3 after allowing six runs on six hits in three innings of work. Center fielder Kenny Stoneback went 3-for-3 with ODU’s only RBI.
ODU attempted to responded in the second by loading the bases on a Shawn Sizemore infield single, a walk and a hit batter. Stoneback then singled to left to drive in the first run for the Monarchs. However, Valadja recovered to induce a pair of flyouts to escape with a 6-1 lead.
The score held until the fifth when Tenaglia dropped a fly ball just in front of a diving Stoneback in center field. He moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Alex Foltz and scored on a single through the right side by McFarland. With the next batter up, McFarland took off on a delayed steal attempt of second but Foltz was caught too far off third base for the first out. A groundout and a strikeout prevented any further damage.
Monarch miscues helped the Dukes get going again in the seventh as Herbek and Tenaglia reached on errors. Foltz walked to load the bases and McFarland came through with a two-run single up the middle for a 9-1 lead. Bradley Shaban’s single reloaded the bases and Brown was hit by a pitch to make it 10-1.
ODU loaded the bases on three consecutive singles in the seventh by Stoneback, Brandon Shelton and Brent Frazier. However, after reliever Josh Futter induced a flyout, freshman left-hander Luke Munson stepped in for the lefty-lefty matchup and struck out ODU cleanup hitter Chris Baker to end the threat.