HARRISONBURG, Va., – Freshman starter J.T. Root (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) tossed five scoreless innings while junior Tyler Gregory (Dothan, Ala./Houston Academy) and senior Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glenville) each homered with a combined nine RBIs as James Madison topped Liberty 13-4 in its final regular season home game at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park on Tuesday.
JMU improved to 23-26 with its third straight victory heading into a crucial final Colonial Athletic Association series at Delaware beginning Thursday. LU lost its fourth straight to fall to 27-25 while also preparing for a critical series this week against Radford.
After hitting his first JMU home run on Sunday, Gregory homered in his second straight game, a three-run shot in the fourth that broke the game open, 4-0. He finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and a walk. Goss entered as a pinch hitter and also connected for his second home run, a rare inside-the-park grand slam in the eighth with the ball landing in front of the diving center fielder and rolling far away. Goss finished 2-for-2 with five RBIs.
Making his first collegiate start, Root pitched five scoreless innings while allowing five hits and fanning the Flames four times. The right-hander improved to 2-0 as the first of five JMU pitchers. Sophomore Patrick Arnold (Roanoke, Va./Northside) and freshman Kevin Feehan (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) each made season debuts on the mound. After Liberty loaded the bases with no outs against Feehan in the eight, the left-hander recovered to strike out the side in his first collegiate appearance.
The Dukes actually had one less hit than Liberty but drew 10 walks and two hit by pitches. Senior designated hitter Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Junior first baseman Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) singled, walked twice and scored twice. Senior right fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) singled, walked twice and stole a base.
Adam Parks (1-3) took the loss as the first if six pitchers in the game for Liberty. He allowed two runs on three hits in three innings, working a quiet first three frames before running into trouble in the fourth the second time through the lineup. Right fielder Ashton Perritt was 3-for-5 and center fielder Ryan Cordell 2-for-5 at the top of Liberty’s lineup.
JMU opened the fourth with a double by Bladel and a walk by McFarland. Senior center fielder Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton) put the Dukes on the board first with a single through the right side. After another walk, Gregory hit his second home run in as many games, a three-run shot over the high wall in right field to make it 4-0.
In the fifth, Roberts drew a one-out walk and scored all the way from first when Gregory drilled a double straight over the center fielder’s head to make it 5-0. McInturff then sent a single back through the middle to plate Gregory for a 6-0 advantage. McInturff stole second and added a seventh run on an RBI single by sophomore infielder Tyler Duke (Troutville, Va./James River).
After five scoreless innings from Root, Liberty broke through in the sixth. Danny Grauer’s RBI single got things started. An error on a potential double play ball extended the inning and put runners on the corners for a sacrifice fly by Alex Close. After a walk, Dalton Britt singled to make it 7-3.
Senior catcher Billy Logan (Greenup, Ky./Greenup County) reached in the sixth on one of his two hit by pitches in the game. McFarland singled and both runners advanced on a groundout. Goss then beat out an infield RBI single to shortstop with the throw getting away to allow the second runner to score and make it 9-3.
Liberty got one in the seventh on an RBI single by Trey Winner to set the stage for Goss’ rare feat in the eighth.
JMU led off the bottom of the eighth with three consecutive walks. After a popup to shallow left center, Goss hit a low liner to center field. Ryan Cordell tried to make a diving play but had the ball land in front of his glove and bounce far away further into center field. Goss raced all the way around and scored as the relay throw bounced away from the catcher for the inside-the-park grand slam.
The Dukes play their final CAA weekend set at Delaware beginning Thursday at 3 p.m. JMU needs any combination of two wins against the Blue Hens and/or losses by Hofstra against UNCW to secure a spot in the six-team CAA Championship next week in Harrisonburg.