Kelly ready to take over as JMU's ace

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HARRISONBURG, Va. -- James Madison junior right-handed pitcher Kevin Kelly is ready to take over as the Dukes' ace in 2019.

Kelly has earned the nod as JMU's opening day starter and will pitch Friday nights for the Dukes this season. His spot at the top of JMU's rotation comes after a strong 2018 campaign and dominant performance over the summer in the nation's top collegiate baseball summer league.

As a sophomore, Kelly struck out 75 batters in just 67.1 innings pitched while posting a 3.74 ERA as JMU's Saturday starter in 2018. Following his college season, Kelly joined the Orleans Firebirds of the prestigious Cape Cod League.

Kelly baffled some of the top hitters in the country, posting a league-best 1.25 ERA in 36 innings pitched.

"I just really focused on throwing a lot of strikes," said Kelly, of his performance in the Cape Cod League. "Keeping the ball low in the zone and just let the hitters get themselves out."

Kelly's success comes in large part due his ability to pitch from different arm slots and angles.

"As a former catcher, I don't want to catch him," said JMU head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "As a hitter...I don't want to hit against him because his stuff dances and it moves."

With Kelly leading what's expected to be a strong pitching staff, optimism is high for JMU baseball in 2019. The Dukes open play Friday, Feb. 15 at home against Norfolk St.