High expectations for motivated JMU baseball team in 2021

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 8:05 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The James Madison baseball team has high expectations for the 2021 season.

The Dukes are preparing to host Bowling Green for a three-game series this weekend in what will be JMU’s first home games of the season. JMU was swept in a three-game road series at North Carolina to open the 2021 campaign.

JMU returns a loaded roster this spring. Almost the entire starting lineup is back, led by star redshirt freshman outfielder/pitcher Chase DeLauter. DeLauter had a breakout campaign as a freshman in 2020 before the season was cut short. He went on to have a historic summer while winning the MVP award in the Rockingham County Baseball League. Outfielders Conor Hartigan and Tre Dabney along with infielders Nick Zona, Fox Semones, Kyle Novak, Brady Harju, and catcher Michael Morgan return after serving as starters in the shortened 2020 season.

With a deep lineup returning and talent on the mound, the Dukes have lofty goals in 2021.

“Our guys are talking about Omaha,” said JMU head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “We say that with a lot of conviction and we do it with the ability to understand everybody on this team plays a part.”

The pitching staff is led by veteran right-handers Nick Stewart and Justin Showalter. A number of young players are expected to play significant roles in the starting rotation and bullpen. Showalter is “building back up”, according to Ikenberry, and expected to rejoin the starting rotation in mid-March.

“We kind of got together and just said Omaha is really the place we want to be,” said Stewart. “We are trying to get a national championship. It’s not going to stop in our conference or the regional, it’s the ultimate goal.”

Omaha, Nebraska is the annual site of the College World Series. While JMU believes it can make a deep postseason run, the Dukes were only picked to finish fourth (out of five teams) in the CAA South Division.

“Of course we think we can be the best team in the conference,” said DeLauter. “Of course people outside might not think that but for us alone it increases our focus and our intensity and I think that will help us win more ball games.”

JMU’s three-game series against Bowling Green is scheduled to start Friday at 3 p.m. at Eagle Field.

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