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JMU Beats Michigan Twice, Moves On To Supers

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(Photo Courtesy of JMu Athletics)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This was the time, Alumni Field thought.

No. 15 national seed Michigan had cut just James Madison’s lead to one run on first baseman Alex Sobczak’s homer. It was the first run right-hander Megan Good had allowed in 13.1 innings that day. The Wolverines, it seemed, maybe had enough left for one final push.

And yet, as the Dukes huddled around Good in the circle, it could have been any other game for them.

As Tupac’s “California Love” boomed out of the loudspeakers, third baseman Hannah File was dancing, looking as carefree as you could possibly look with two outs separating you from a trip to the Super Regional and two runs separating you from your season’s end.

As Madison Uden prepared to hit for Michigan, catcher Kierstin Roadcap, File, and the rest of the infield walked back to their positions, exchanging high-fives and smiles.

“I just told my team it's okay, we still got this, we've got one down,” Good said. “I'm just gonna buckle down. I know you guys have my back, so let's just get it right here.”

That’s the confidence of a pitcher who threw 182 pitches and 11.2 innings of one-run ball just two days earlier. A pitcher who shut down that same lineup again, this time over seven shutout innings, in a game her team had to win hardly two hours before just to get to this position. A senior ready to give everything she had to keep her career alive.

Uden blooped a single into center field. The crowd grew louder as Morgan Overaitis, the winning run, stepped to the plate.

Ball. Strike. Ball. Strike. Ball. Crack.

The Wolverines’ pinch-hitter lined a hard shot to center — but right to Cambry Arnold, who had already saved a run earlier by throwing out Grace Chelemen at home in the fourth inning. Two away. Another pinch-hitter, Mackenzie Nemitz, dug in.

Foul. Strike. Ball.

Nemitz swung at the 1-2. Her bat came up empty.

But it wasn’t over. The ball eluded Roadcap in the dirt. Just as there was after Sobczak’s homer, though, there was no panic.

Roadcap fired to first. Ballgame. Good sprinted to embrace her catcher, and her whole team poured in after her.

“I don't have any words for that one,” said James Madison coach Loren LaPorte, after her team beat Michigan 2-1 on Monday to clinch a Super Regional berth for the first time since 2016.

“It took a full team effort, and it took a lot of grit and fight. ... All the hours that this team put together in the pens and outside time, today was the day that those hours were gonna count. And we made them count.”

While it certainly wasn’t a one-woman performance, Good could hardly have done more. Her pitching line for the weekend: 27.2 innings pitched, 18 hits allowed, 21 strikeouts, an 0.76 ERA and an astounding 408 pitches thrown. Even she admitted she didn’t expect to throw that many.

But?

“She was as tough as we knew she would be in the circle,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “We never seemed to get it going.”

“I'm just super excited for her,” Roadcap said, her voice cracking with joy. “I'm really emotional because I'm just so proud of her and everything she's done for this team.”

This wasn’t just about Megan Good, though.

It was about Odicci Alexander, who didn’t allow an earned run on the weekend and shut down DePaul in an elimination game mere hours after a draining, 12-inning affair. It was about Roadcap, whose pitch-calling and rapport with Good couldn’t be left unnoticed. It was about shortstop Sara Jubas, who hit .533 with two home runs over the weekend’s five games. It was about left fielder Kate Gordon, who drove four balls out of Alumni Field, including a program-record 19th on Friday.

In short, it was about a team doing something that, well, wasn’t impossible, but was pretty close to it — defeating a regional host twice, on the same day, to keep its season alive.

“Michigan's an amazing team,” LaPorte said. “They're so fundamentally sound, and I knew this was gonna be a dogfight when we saw our names come across, what region we were going to. So hats off to them. That coaching staff is phenomenal and does a great job with that team, and I knew this was gonna be a battle. It was that Super Regional feel for sure.”

As if Good wasn’t dominant enough in Saturday’s instant classic, she introduced the Wolverines to her secret weapon on Monday: a drop-ball that second baseman Faith Canfield said fooled her multiple times. It’s no coincidence that Sobczak — the only Michigan hitter with any kind of success against Good, with three hits on Monday — said she didn’t see much of it.

“She bought into it, and she was lights out today,” LaPorte said. “For her to do that, and that not being her go-to pitch, it's just phenomenal the athlete that she is.”

Not just a pitcher — an athlete Good was, of course, the 2017 NFCA Division I National Player of the Year, thanks in part to her hitting prowess. She broke a scoreless deadlock in the fourth inning of the deciding contest, after an 11-pitch at-bat against Meghan Beaubien, by hitting a deep ball to right field that was gone the moment it left her bat. And she stole multiple hits from the Wolverines with clutch plays fielding her position up the middle.

A possible reason this weekend in Ann Arbor felt like a Super Regional: the Dukes, with a top-16 RPI and 47 wins coming in, easily could have hosted a regional of their own.

On Friday, LaPorte stated her team was past any possible snub. She and her players echoed that tone three days later, too.

But when asked if winning a regional was made any more special by the fact that James Madison was the only road team to do so, Roadcap couldn’t help but grin.

“One-hundred percent.”

James Madison will have to travel once more for its actual Super Regional, this time to California to meet No. 2 national seed UCLA.

So if this weekend is any indication, doubt the Dukes — and doubt Megan Good — at your own risk.

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2019 NCAA Softball All-Americans

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