Jones returns to the field for JMU baseball

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HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Josh Jones is making his return to the field for the James Madison baseball team in 2020 after a year away.

Josh Jones is making his return to the field for the James Madison baseball team in 2020 after a year away.

Jones, now a redshirt sophomore, missed all of the 2019 season in order to focus on improving academically.

"My grades weren't up to what they needed to be," said Jones. (I) had a couple difficult classes and didn't handle them the best so kind of just wasn't where I needed to be academically."

In 2018, Jones burst on the scene for the Dukes with a strong freshman campaign. He started 49 games and served as JMU's primary shortstop. Jones batted .296 with 24 RBI and earned a spot on the CAA All-Rookie Team.

While he sat out the 2019 season to focus on his studies, Jones still spent time working on his game. He says he would go through drills by himself in preparation for his return to the field. Perhaps the most important part of the process came this past summer when Jones appeared in 15 games for the Woodstock River Bandits of the Valley Baseball League. He batted .375 with one home run, five doubles, and 10 RBI for Woodstock.

"That was huge," said Jones. "That was definitely needed for me to be able to get out there and be on the field again and kind of get my feet under me again. Get the feeling back and everything, that was definitely huge for me getting back out there."

With his academics now in order, Jones is expected to be JMU's starting third baseman in 2020 with sophomore Nick Zona projected to start at shortstop. Sophomore Tre Dabney, who was JMU's third baseman in 2019, is transitioning to the outfield.

"(Jones) is just looking for an opportunity to get in the lineup," said JMU head coach Marlin Ikeberry. "He's a very solid defensive player, had a great freshman campaign. (He) can swing the bat. I am excited to see what kind of year he puts up."

Jones and the Dukes open the 2020 season with a three-game series at No. 16 NC State starting Friday, February 14.

"Last year, being away kind of gave me a new appreciation for the game," said Jones. "Being able to be back out here and kind of gotten better with my studies. Kind of figured out how to go about them a little bit better so (I) definitely have grown a lot."