Dukes Drop Decisions to No. 23 Minnesota, No. 12 Arizona

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TUCSON, AZ. (JMU Athletics) -- No. 19 James Madison softball dropped hard-fought games against two top-25 opponents on Sunday, as the Dukes lost 5-1 to No. 23 Minnesota and 8-6 in eight innings against No. 12 Arizona.

JMU goes 2-2 in the Wildcat Invitational, moving to 7-4 on the season while the Gophers and Wildcats improve to 11-7 and 15-5, respectively.

Junior shortstop Sara Jubas led the Dukes at the play on Sunday, hitting 5-for-6 on the day with two RBIs. She had two of JMU's five hits in the game against Minnesota.

It was scoreless until the fourth when Jubas singled to center, bringing pinch runner Sydney LaScola in to score for a 1-0 JMU lead. Minnesota's Maddie Houlihan responded in the bottom of the inning, taking a solo shot to center to tie the game at 1-1.

The Gophers went on to score four unanswered runs in the fifth. Junior Natalie Cutright attempted to get the momentum started for the Dukes in the top of the seventh frame, coming away with a standup double down the left field line. Following Cutright's lead, junior Kierstin Roadcap singled to center before JMU was retired.

Redshirt senior Megan Good started in the circle, tallying four strikeouts while giving up two earned runs in five innings. Junior Odicci Alexander took over in the sixth, grabbing one strikeout for the single inning she pitched.

Arizona got off to a hot start, tallying two hits including a two-run homer in the first inning. The Wildcats tacked on one run in both the second and third frames, expanding their lead to 4-0.

JMU found its rhythm in the fifth, scoring four runs on three hits. Sophomore Hannah File hit a leadoff single to left followed by a double from Jubas. Roadcap's groundout knocked File in to score, putting the Dukes' on the board at 4-1.

With runners on first and third, junior Kate Gordon doubled to right which brought junior Madison Naujokas and Jubas across the plate. Gordon advanced to third on a wild pitch and would eventually score to tie the contest at 4-4.

In the top of the seventh, Naujokas doubled to right and Gordon continued swinging that bats with an infield single. Naujokas was able to score on a fielder's choice by junior Cambry Arnold, giving JMU its first lead of the game at 5-4. Arizona brought the score back to 5-5 in the bottom of the inning, sending the game into extras.

As the International Tie Breaker (ITB) was in effect, LaScola was selected to start on second base for the Dukes. File reached on a sacrifice bunt while advancing LaScola to third. Jubas picked up her third hit of the game, bringing in a run to give JMU a 6-5 lead.
Working with two outs, Arizona tied the game with a double before Jessie Harper hit a two-run long ball to give the Wildcats the 8-6 victory.

Sophomore Payton Buresch made her second start in the circle this season, pitching 1 1/3 innings. Alexander came in for relief in the second, letting up three Wildcat hits while notching three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings pitched. Good reappeared in the circle, tallying six strikeouts across 3 2/3 innings before giving up the walkoff home run in the eighth for a 4-3 record on the year.

"We knew going in to today's games that we were playing two tough teams. Although we didn't get the results we were hoping for, I was very proud of the way our girls fought back against Arizona. There are a lot of things we will take from today that will help us later on in the season."

The Dukes head to Tempe to face Michigan, Arizona State, South Dakota, New Mexico State and Lehigh in the ASU Invitational. The invitational begins on Thursday, March 7 and the JMU's last game is on Saturday, March 9.