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Midweek Games - James Madison

Posted on April 9, 2019, in Baseball by Karl Hess.

If you were understandably watching the basketball Hoos play in the Final Four Saturday night, you probably missed UVA baseball complete a doubleheader sweep with a wild win of their own. The doubleheader sweep sends the Hoos back to the Commonwealth with a two-game winning streak and one last road game before a long homestand. 

A trip over the mountain to Harrisonburg is on tap for Tuesday evening. JMU is charging for tickets to this game, so you know the program has it circled on the calendar.

If UVA wants to stay in view of the NCAA Tournament bubble, it can't afford a letdown here.

Team Records

Virginia: 19-13 (Overall), 8-7 (ACC)

James Madison: 18-15 (Overall), 2-7 (CAA)

Game Schedule

Tuesday, April 9 - 6:00 PM

Projected Starting Pitchers

UVA: RHP Evan Sperling (0-1, 6.92 ERA, 13.0 IP, 16 walks, 19 strikeouts)

Virginia's talented enigma gets another crack at things. This will be Sperling's third start of the season and his first since a 9 to 3 loss to William & Mary on February 26. Against the Tribe, Sperling only gave up 1 hit in 2.1 IP but he walked 5 and gave up 5 earned runs. 

Sperling last saw the mound against Notre Dame in Friday night's 5 to 2 Irish victory. Sperling pitched the last inning for the Hoos where he allowed no hits, runs, or walks. He also struck out 1.

By this point in his career, all UVA fans know what Sperling brings to the table. If he's in control of his pitches, he'll have a nice day against the Dukes. If not, it will be a short outing.

JMU: Justin Showalter (1-2, 3.86 ERA, 25.2 IP, 9 walks, 20 strikeouts)

The sophomore is a local kid to the Shenandoah Valley from Bridgewater, VA. He'll likely be jacked to the moon for this opportunity. 

As a freshman last season, Showalter pitched 13.2 IP across 9 appearances. All his appearances as a freshman came as a reliever. In those 13.2 IP, Showalter had an ERA of 7.24, walking 2 and striking out 11. Opponents batted .296 against him during his freshman season.

This season as a sophomore, Showalter has started all 6 of his appearances. His numbers show a nice improvement. Opponents are currently batting .224 against him.

Showalter's last appearance was a start against Richmond on April 2. The Spiders won the game 3 to 1. Showalter went 3.2 innings. He gave up 1 hit, 3 runs (1 earned), walked 3, hit 1, and struck out none.

This will be Showalter's first career appearance versus the Hoos.

Weather Watch (Courtesy of Weather.com)

It should be beautiful weather for a baseball game Tuesday evening in Harrisonburg. At first pitch, the temps should be in the lower 70s with no rain expected. Skies will be partly cloudy and winds around 10 MPH.

Media Coverage

Live streaming does appear to be available for this game via MADIZONE HD SPORTSNET.

WINA will have the radio broadcast over the air for the Charlottesville area locals. And VirginiaSports.com will carry streaming of the radio broadcast.

Dukes To Watch

JMU has two pretty substantial threats residing in the top of their lineup. One is a freshman. The other is a junior. Both are in their first year with the Dukes.

Junior 1B Brady Harju is a JUCO transfer from Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland. In his first season of D1 ball, Harju is batting cleanup for JMU with a good deal of success. He's leading the team in hits (34), doubles (7), and RBI (23). He's second in homers (4), total bases (53), slugging among regulars (.457), and OPS among regulars (.816). He's batting a more than respectable .293 but is also tied for second on the team in strike outs (33).

Arguably, the only Duke having a better year than Harju is freshman 3B Trevon Dabney. Dabney is from the same hometown as UVA's Brendan Rivoli. The freshman leads JMU by a mile, and is sixth nationally, in being hit by pitch with 15 on the season. He also leads the team or is tied for the team lead in batting average (leads, .340), OPS (leads, 1.104), runs (leads, 25), homers (leads, 6), total bases (leads, 59), slugging (leads, .608), on base percentage (leads, .496), and stolen bases (tied for lead, 10). Dabney also ranks second on the team in hits (tied, 33), doubles (tied, 6), triples (tied, 1), RBI (20), and walks (16).

Dabney typically bats leadoff for the Dukes while Harju mans the cleanup spot.

Last Season

The two teams played once last season in mid-March. The Hoos took the game in Charlottesville 3 to 2. The winning margin was delivered via a bottom of the 9th sac fly from Tanner Morris.

UVA has won 9 consecutive games against the Dukes and 21 of the last 23 contests.

Prediction

In the preseason CAA coaches poll, JMU was picked to finish sixth in the nine team league. At 2-7, they're currently in seventh. 

Besides the long losing streak in the UVA series, the Dukes will enter the game having dropped 7 in a row overall: Charleston (3), Richmond (1), and Elon (3). Only the games against Elon were played on the road. 

Early in the season, the Dukes were swept in 3 games at Louisville. But they did win 2 of 3 at Fullerton. That result, while nearly a month old, does raise eyebrows a bit.

For the Hoos, this game will likely come down to overcoming the initial surge of energy that JMU gets from hosting the local power conference team at home. Then it becomes a function of not having a letdown from the crazy win to close out the Notre Dame series. And with UVA pitchers, the current caveat of not allowing free passes to beat the team continues to apply.

UVA should win this game. Playing at JMU adds an element of uncertainty to the equation. But Sperling getting the start raises the risk more. It will be interesting to see how much leeway the coaches afford him if he's not sharp from the outset.

UVA wins a hard fought game.

This article contains the tags:

Baseball, 2019, James Madison