Raleigh Regional Preview: Can JMU Advance?

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

For the first time in 13 years, JMU baseball earned a spot in an NCAA Regional.

The Dukes begin play in the Raleigh Regional, facing South Carolina on Friday at 2 p.m. ET in a game that will air on ESPN+. If the Dukes advance out of the regional hosted by red-hot N.C. State, they’ll become regional champions for the first time since making the College World Series in 1983.

To make it that far, JMU needs to advance through a regional with two Power Five programs and Bryant. FanDuel gives JMU +650 odds to advance through the regional, the third-shortest odds of the four teams in the regional.

Expectations

JMU reaching a regional constitutes a successful season. Marlin Ikenberry finally led the Dukes to the postseason, and JMU finished fourth in the Sun Belt despite being picked to finish 10th in the preseason.

Even if JMU goes winless in Raleigh, this season will be viewed positively by fans and the administration. Making regionals is a great way to inspire a fanbase to follow a program, and the Dukes should enter 2025 with increased fan engagement.

Given JMU’s appearance in the tournament field, the Dukes should play freely this weekend. There’s minimal downside to losing, and there’s tremendous upside to making a Super Regional.

Fans shouldn’t expect JMU to advance, but the Dukes have performed admirably (7-8) against Quad 1 RPI opponents. N.C. State and South Carolina are both Quad 1 foes. The Dukes have a fighting chance, even if they’re far from the favorite.

How to advance

If JMU wants to make a Super Regional, the pitching needs to step up.

In JMU’s Quad 1 losses, its opponents scored 9.4 runs per game. In JMU’s Quad 1 wins, the Dukes allowed 5.9 runs per game.

JMU went 1-4 in Quad 1 games when allowing more than 10 runs. When JMU didn’t get shelled, it actually did well to hang with the best teams in the nation.

The Dukes led the Sun Belt in batting average (.300) and slugging percentage (.512) this season, but they ranked 10th in team ERA (6.01). JMU finds itself in a regional mostly because of its lineup, which is the only group in the Sun Belt to rank in the top four in the conference in home runs and stolen bases.

Certainly, JMU needs to score in bunches to advance this weekend, but the pitching will likely be the difference between being competitive and the season swiftly ending. The Dukes don’t need to shut down teams entirely – and they likely won’t – but keeping teams to fewer than 10 runs is an important baseline to reach.

Donovan Burke and the rest of JMU’s pitching staff will need to be at their best this weekend. If they can limit blow-up performances, the Dukes have enough hitting throughout their lineup to compete. Fenwick Trimble, Jason Schiavone, Brendan O’Donnell, and Mike Mancini are all matchup problems, even for Power Conference opponents.

N.C. State and South Carolina both average more than 7.5 runs per game, but neither team is in the top 50 nationally in scoring. It’s not outlandish to think JMU’s pitching staff could perform just well enough to keep the Dukes in any games against South Carolina and N.C. State.

If the pitching staff performs well, the Dukes have a shot at advancing. If it doesn’t, it could be a quick weekend for JMU.

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