BUBBLE WATCH | JMU Baseball Gears Up For Final Stretch Ahead of Post Season Play

Photo Courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

The Dukes won their last home series of the Sun Belt regular season against Marshall this weekend. JMU won Game 1, 8-5 and won the second meeting, 5-3. 

The Dukes look for the series sweep over the Thundering Herd on Sunday, May 12. The Diamond Dukes have a legitimate shot to make an NCAA regional for the first time in 13 years. 

Let’s take a look at the Dukes’ season up until this point and what they need to do to make the NCAA tournament once again. 

James Madison’s offense has been electric this year. Led by junior catcher Jason Schiavone and junior center fielder Fenwick Trimble. 

Trimble has been hot this year, the center fielder is slashing .365/.445/.645 (batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage). He had a pair of homers in Saturday’s game against Marshall which raised his home run total to 13 on the year. The leader on the team in homers is Schiavone with 15. Schiavone’s defense behind the dish has been stellar all year, recording a .990 fielding percentage. That consistency behind the dish along with his power has been a game changer for JMU. 

The Dukes have a batting average of .300 this season which is up slightly from last year. They have also been stellar on the base paths in 2024. Mike Mancini leads the squad with 24 stolen bags, second-best in the SBC. 

The Dukes have been one of the best offenses in the conference because of these contributions. JMU’s bats can get hot in an instant which makes them an extremely scary team to face in a postseason setting.

The pitching staff for the Dukes is where some concerns can arise in terms of their possible NCAA tournament appearance. 

JMU’s starters Donovan Burke and Max Kuhl have ERAs of 3.88 and 4.58 respectively. Donovan has one of the best pick off moves in the country which is a lethal tool for the Dukes pitching room. The bullpen has been hit or miss depending on the matchup this year, at times the ‘pen has shut down opponents but other times it has blown up leads. Their performance will determine how far this team will progress into June. 

Hunter Entsminger has the best ERA out of the relievers with a 2.08 ERA through 26 IP. Entsminger had an efficient outing in Game 2 against the Thundering Herd, in his 18th appearance of the season the redshirt senior pitcher went 3.2 allowing no hits, no runs and struck out two Marshall batters. 

Senior RHP Joe Vogotsky has been the team’s go-to closer, racking up a eight saves this season, the second most in the Sun Belt. Out of all the Dukes’ bullpen arms, junior RHP Todd Mozoki and freshman RHP Jackson Logar are the two names to watch to step up down the stretch. JMU needs to find consistent pitching, specifically out of the bullpen, for its success to continue heading into the Sun Belt tournament. 

The resume for JMU is solid with five games remaining in the regular season. It has a win over a top 5 ranked Arkansas team to start the season as well as a midweek win over Virginia Tech and a sweep against Georgia Southern. A series sweep over App State is another notch in the cap for the Dukes throughout their conference schedule.

Unfortunately, the road record for the Dukes leaves a lot to be desired. Away from Veterans Memorial Park, JMU has only won 7 of its 21 contests. 

What is keeping James Madison’s RPI so high is the Dukes’ strength of schedule. According to D1 Baseball, they have the 20th hardest schedule in the country. Ikenberry has put together a challenging schedule for this team and they have performed admirably (30-19, 15-11 SBC). 

JMU is likely going to have to sweep Marshall and then win 2 out of their last 4 to safely secure their spot in an NCAA regional. 

The Dukes are right on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament and need to perform well throughout the end of this year. A tall but doable task is ahead of the Diamond Dukes. 

Marlin Ikenberry has preached a day-by-day approach to this group and that mentality will need to be in full effect against upcoming opponents Virginia Tech and Troy. The Dukes are currently sitting in fifth position in the SBC but they swept 4th position App State earlier this season. We will see in short order what JMU is made of going into conference tournament play.

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