No. 21 JMU Edges No. 24 Liberty 4-3 in 10-Inning NCAA Regional Opener
Two of the top teams in the Commonwealth of Virginia went toe-to-toe in the opening game of the 2021 NCAA Knoxville Regional. No. 21 James Madison scored twice in the fourth and twice in the 10th and held on for a 4-3 win over No. 24 Liberty on Friday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
James Madison (35-1) extended its winning streak to 25 games, the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I softball. The Dukes advance in the winner's bracket and will play the winner of today's game between No. 9 national seed Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky, tomorrow at noon.
The Lady Flames (42-14) will now have to win four games in the next two days in order to advance to next week's Super Regional round. Liberty's comeback journey begins tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in an elimination game against the loser of today's Tennessee-EKU game.
James Madison – 4th INNING – Alexander walks, Jubas scored on wild pitch, 1-0
James Madison – 4th INNING – Naujokas triples, Thress scores, 2-0
Liberty – 4th INNING – Hudson doubles, Hodum and Wilson score, 2-2
James Madison – 10th INNING – Jubas doubles, advances to third on throw, Sullivan and Gordon score, 4-2
Liberty – 10th INNING – Bishop-Riley homers, 4-3
– Liberty outhit the Dukes, 6-4, with both teams recording one error. The Lady Flames left eight runners on base, while JMU stranded six. Liberty stranded seven runners over the first four innings combined.
– Entering Regionals, JMU had not allowed a single run since April 25 against UNCW, a span of 42 innings and seven straight shutouts.
– 2021 CAA Pitcher of the Year Odicci Alexander (13-0) earned the win, fanning 19 while allowing three runs on six hits and walking three.
– Karlie Keeney (15-5) drew the tough-luck loss, yielding two runs (one earned) on two hits, walking three and striking out three in 6 2/3 innings of relief. 2021 ASUN Pitcher of the Year Emily Kirby yielded two runs on two hits, fanning three and walking two in 3 1/3 innings.
– Sara Jubas went 2-for-5 with a double, triple, one run scored and two RBI. Madison Naujokas went 1-for-3 with a triple and one RBI.
– Kara Canetto and Devyn Howard both recorded two hits, while Caroline Hudson batted 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Amber Bishop-Riley hit her ASUN-leading 17th homer of the season.
– James Madison got on the board first in the fourth inning, as Jubas led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Naujokas made it 2-0 with an RBI triple. Keeney came on and struck out the final two batters of the inning.
– Liberty tied it on a two-run double by Hudson with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Alexander got out of the jam, retiring the final two batters.
– Both teams left a runner on base in the seventh before going in order in both the eighth and ninth frames.
– JMU got its first hit off of Keeney with one out in the 10th, a double by Michelle Sullivan. An error put runners on the corners for Jubas, who lined a two-run double into the corner for a 4-2 lead.
– Bishop-Riley led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo shot, slicing the deficit to 4-3. Alexander then got Canetto to ground out before fanning Emily Sweat and Savannah Channell.
Beyond the Box Score
– James Madison leads the all-time series with Liberty at 14-9. The Dukes have won the last four meetings, including a 1-0 win over the Lady Flames in Harrisonburg, Va., on April 3, 2019.
– Today began Liberty's fourth appearance in NCAA Regional play, twice appearing in the Knoxville Regional (2011, 2021) and twice appearing in Columba (2002, 2018).
– Today's game between No. 24 Liberty and No. 21 James Madison was the only first-round matchup in the 2021 NCAA Division I Softball Championship to feature two Top 25 teams.
– The Knoxville Regional is the second toughest in this year's tournament based on combined winning percentage (.783), trailing only the Los Angeles Regional (.800).
– Seven Liberty starters, including starting pitcher Emily Kirby, were making their NCAA Regional debuts. Seniors Amber Bishop-Riley, Autumn Bishop and Madison Via all started all four of Liberty's games at the 2018 NCAA Columbia Regional.
– The Lady Flames are 13-6 in one-run games and 3-2 in extra-inning games this year.
– Liberty is 7-10 when its opponent scores first this season.
– Today tied the longest NCAA Tournament game in program history. Liberty's first NCAA postseason win came on May 18, 2018, a 2-0, 10-inning win over No. 24 Hofstra.
– Bishop-Riley's 10th-inning home run and Kaitlin McFarland's 10th-inning home run on May 18, 2018 against Hofstra are the only two NCAA Tournament homers in Liberty softball history.
– Bishop has reached base safely in each of the last 29 games. The program record for consecutive games reached base safely in 32 by Jessica Moore in 2007.