The Virginia baseball team looks to rectify its icy four game losing streak with today's game against a fiery James Madison squad at 3 p.m. at U.Va. Baseball Field.
While the Cavaliers (17-22-1, 5-10 ACC) were losing a three-game series to Georgia Tech over the weekend, James Madison (28-15) thrashed UNC-Wilmington in all three games of their series in Harrisonburg.
The Yellow Jackets swept the Cavs in the series, outscoring them 5-4, 8-1 and 12-6. No. 13 Georgia Tech remains in first place in the ACC standings.
When Virginia and JMU met in Harrisonburg March 8, the Dukes crushed the Cavaliers, 14-6. Four errors by the Cavs and 10 JMU steals proved to be major factors in the Virginia loss.
"They're very, very solid," Cavalier coach Dennis Womack said of the Dukes. "Last time, they took advantage of us in the base-stealing department. They beat us around pretty good. We need to stop them offensively."
Madison has swiped 145 bases in 186 attempts this season (78 percent), led by junior outfielder Rich Thompson's 33 steals.
"It puts a lot of pressure on pitchers and catchers if they know we can steal," JMU coach Spanky McFarland said. "They have to get the ball to the plate quicker. It gives us an extra weapon to use."
With 14 games left in the season, nine of which are ACC games, the struggling Cavaliers are on a mission to beat out Maryland and Duke to finish above eighth in the conference.
"We're in a dogfight," Womack said. "One of the goals is staying out of the play-in game in the conference tournament. If you can stay out of that, you've got a much better chance at winning the conference championship."
After winning their last six games, the Dukes are looking to prove they can hold on to their streak.
"It's a season of ups and downs," McFarland said. "Right now we're up, but it remains to be seen how long we can keep it up. We're a young club. The biggest thing for us is coming to play every day and all that stuff."
Virginia's Will Parker (4-1) did not pitch against the Dukes in March, but the senior lefthander will start today in an attempt to show the Dukes what they missed during their last meeting. Womack said he also anticipates getting sophomore Dan Street some work in relief.
Freshman righthander Chris Cochran will start for JMU. Cochran (4-4), who gave up three runs (two earned) in four innings against the Cavs in March, has had a typically inconsistent rookie year. His ERA was under two when he faced Virginia the first time but now has ballooned to 4.14.
"He does a pretty good job," McFarland said. "He pitched real well against George Washington last week, so that was exciting"