Freshman left fielder Taylor Newton (Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch) smacked her first career home run and sophomore catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) added a two-run triple to carry the James Madison softball team to a 5-3 win over Illinois-Chicago in the final game of the UCF Holiday Inn Classic in Orlando, Fla., Sunday.
JMU finished the three-day tournament with a 4-1 record and improved to 5-5 on the season. UIC went 0-5 on the weekend and dropped to 1-9 on the year.
Newton hit the first home run of the season for JMU and finished the game 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Field went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs while sophomore pitcher/designated player Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) contributed two hits and a run scored.
Ford also earned the win in the circle for Madison to improve to 3-2 on the season. She limited the Flames to one run on three hits in four innings of work. The left-hander struck out three and did not walk a batter. Junior right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) earned her first save of the season after tossing three innings of relief. Kiefer allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out three.
Elaine Heflin picked up the loss for UIC, dropping to 1-4 overall. She gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits in five innings pitched. The right-hander struck out five and walked one. Bridget Boyle struck out one in a perfect inning of relief for the Flames.
Offensively, second baseman Jacki Fletcher went 2-for-3 with a double, a run and a RBI while shortstop Natalie Hernandez collected two hits and a run in four trips to the plate. Third baseman Jenna Marsalli finished 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
The Dukes got on the board in the bottom of the second as Newton blasted the team’s first home run of the year. Senior first baseman Cassidy Clayton (Acton, Mass./Acton Boxborough) started the inning with a one-out single up the middle. She was pinch run for by freshman Caitlin Viafora (Stanley, Va./Page County) who came in to score when Newton blasted the first pitch of her at-bat out to left-center for the Dukes’ first home run of the season.
UIC got a run back in the top of the third. Hernandez hit a one-out single through the right side. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and came in to score on a double to left field by Fletcher.
A two-run triple by Field quickly pushed the Madison lead up to 4-1 in the bottom of the third. Senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) hit a one-out double to left-center and moved to third on a single down the left field line by Ford. Both runners came in to score as Ford ripped her second triple of the season down the line.
The Dukes capitalized on two Flames’ errors in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-1. Senior pinch runner Brittany Jeans (Camano Island, Wash./Stanwood) scored JMU’s run after Sandy hit a grounder to the right side that was mishandled by Fletcher allowing Jeans to race around third for a run.
The Flames put together a rally in the top of the sixth to cut the Madison lead to 5-3 with a pair of runs. Fletcher worked a walk with one out to ignite the inning. She moved to third on a double by Marsalli. Fletcher came in to score on a single up the middle by first baseman Laura Swan while Marsalli made it 5-3 when she touched home on a ground-out by center fielder Courtney Heeley.
Illinois-Chicago put the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Kiefer induced a ground-out to end the game and pick up the fourth save of her career.
JMU returns to the sunshine state next weekend to play in the NFCA Lead Off Classic in Clearwater, Fla. Madison plays five games in the three-day tournament.