James Madison pitchers combined to limit Northeastern to five hits and retired the final 13 batters of the game to record a 3-2 triumph to clinch its first Colonial Athletic Association series win on Saturday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
JMU won consecutive games for the first time since the first weekend of March to improve to 8-22-1. The Dukes also clinched their first CAA series win of the year to improve to 3-11 in the conference while defeating Northeastern for the ninth time in 10 meetings. NU fell to 12-13 overall and 3-8 in the CAA.
The James Madison bullpen took over in the sixth with the Dukes trailing 2-1 and retired all 12 batters faced while JMU rallied with two runs in the sixth to claim the win. Sophomore Trent Cundiff (Roanoke, Va./Northside) retired all nine Huskies faced on 30 pitches with two strikeouts. Freshman Chris Huffman (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) pitched a perfect ninth for his first collegiate save.
With Cundiff on the mound, JMU scratched off a couple of runs to support the stellar pitching effort. Senior designated hitter Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) led off with an infield single on the first pitch of the inning. Junior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) reached on a bunt single and Scott moved all the way to third as the toss got away at first. After a strikeout, junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centerville, Va./Westfield) singled through the right side to plate Scott and tie it at 2-2. With runners on first and third, a squeeze bunt attempt was missed with the runners going. Shaban was caught in a rundown off the base but was safe at home with the go-ahead run to make it 3-2 when the catcher couldn't collect the throw at the plate.
The bullpen's performance came in support of the first collegiate start for redshirt freshman Michael Howerton (Chesterfield, Va./Matoaca). The right-hander, who had not thrown more than 61 pitches in a game in two years, limited the Huskies to two runs on five hits in five innings of work on 91 pitches. His first start came in his 14th appearance of the season.
McInturff posted his third three-hit game in the last seven contests. Shaban, Scott and sophomore third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) each went 2-for-4 at the plate. Juniors Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) and Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) each singled to extend active hitting streaks to 13 games.
Starter Kevin Ferguson took the loss for Northeastern after scattering 11 hits and allowing all three runs in seven innings of work with five strikeouts. Second baseman Jason Vosler was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
After having bases loaded and no outs in the second with no runs scoring, the Dukes finally broke through with a run in the third. Goss led off with an infield single to first as he beat the pitcher covering the bag. He stole both second and third for two of JMU's six steals on the night and scored on an RBI groundout by Scott for a 1-0 lead.
Northeastern took advantage of a free base in fourth. Catcher Jon Leroux was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single through the right side by Vosler to knot the score at 1-1.
The Huskies took the lead in the fifth as left fielder Matt Miller dropped a one-out bunt single. With two outs, he moved to second on a wild pitch and came in to score on a single down the right field line by Vosler.
The NU lead lasted until the sixth when JMU broke through with the McInturff single and Shaban rundown play.
JMU will go for its first CAA sweep since last May at Northeastern on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.