HARRISONBURG, Va.,– A two-run home run over the right field wall in the top of the eighth inning put the Longwood Lancers ahead 10-5 and proved to be the deciding factor in the 11-9 loss by the James Madison baseball squad in its home opener Wednesday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
JMU fell to 0-3 on the season and lost its home opener for the first time in five years and first time at VMP while Longwood opened its 2013 slate with a win.
With two outs in the top of the eighth, third baseman Alex Owens drove a Johnny Bladel pitch over the right field wall to plate himself and designated runner Travis Burnette, giving the Lancers the lead at 10-5. Owens finished the day with a game-high four hits, including the home run and a triple in the seventh. He also had a game-high three RBIs.
Madison started to rally in the bottom of the eighth with third baseman Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) driving in second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) and left fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) off a single through the right side.
Longwood answered in the top of the ninth, scoring first baseman Conner Hall on an errant throw by catcher Chris Hanson (Fairfax, Va./Oakton) after a wild pitch. Hall had reached base after tagging a double into right center.
Right fielder Tyler Gregory (Dothan, Ala./Houston Academy) and pinch hitter Aaron Hoover (Centreville, Va./Westfield) came out swinging in the bottom of the ninth, both scoring to close the gap for the Dukes. Longwood’s Aaron Myers, however, shut the rally down and allowed the Lancers to walk away with the 11-9 victory.
For JMU, McFarland and designated hitter Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) each posted three hits. McFarland led the team with two runs batted in while five other Dukes drove in one run apiece. In his return to Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park, first baseman Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) notched two hits with one double, stole two bases and walked once.
The Lancers held the advantage with 11 runs off of 16 hits and just one error in their opening game. JMU drove in nine runs off of 12 hits but committed three errors en route to the loss. Madison’s pitchers, however, sat down 12 batters on strikeouts.
The Dukes grabbed a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third after right fielder Tyler Gregory (Dothan, Ala./Houston Academy (Wallace C.C.) stroked a triple to right field, scoring Tenaglia from third. Earlier in the inning, a groundout by Brown plated McFarland to tie the game.
After Longwood scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead, Madison erased the advantage with a score by Brown to tie the game at 4-4. A sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth by Longwood shortstop Matt Dickason, however, allowed second baseman C.J. Roth to cross home plate and break the final tie of the game.
JMU returns to the diamond this Friday for the beginning of a four-game weekend series against Binghamton. First pitch on Feb. 22 is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.