Delaware (32-19, 14-11 CAA) pocketed its 20th win of the season at Bob Hannah Stadium and improved to 23-2 when scoring six-or-more runs in a game while James Madison fell to 23-27 overall and 10-14 in the conference.
“We are probably one of the best team’s in the country on Friday, but too many times this season we have won on Friday and did not finish the weekend the way we wanted,” said Delaware head coach Jim Sherman. “There is still plenty for us to play for, we want to head into the playoffs on a bit of a roll.”
The Blue Hens hammered four runs in the bottom of the first inning behind Jimmy Yezzo’s two-run double and Ferdinand’s two-run home run over the center field wall. UD added one run in the bottom of the second inning on Tyler Powell’s sacrifice fly. Delaware punched in two runs in the bottom of the third inning thanks to Chris Branigan’s two-run double. EJ Stoltzfus scored the eighth and eventual game-deciding run in the bottom of the fifth inning on a wild pitch uncorked by JMU reliever Mark Gunst.
Delaware collected eight base hits in the win as Ferdinand was the only Blue Hen hitter with a multi-hit game. The right fielder went 2-for-4 with one home run, two RBI and two runs scored in the victory.
“I’m happy for Nick because he has worked so hard,” said Sherman. “He might not have the recognition that Jimmy Yezzo is getting, but has quietly put together a great year.”
Kuhl (10-2) became the first Blue Hen to reach 10-plus wins in a season since 2001, when Vic Sage (11) and Rich McGuire (10) each accomplish that feat. Kuhl was charged with six earned runs on eight hits, three walks and three strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched.
Delaware’s Eric Buckland (S, 5) closed out the final two innings of the ballgame as the right-hander held the Dukes to one walk and five strikeouts in two hitless innings of relief.
James Madison tallied 10 hits in the game as Ty McFarland, Chad Carroll and Bradley Shaban each had two hits apiece and led the JMU offense. McFarland was the only Duke hitter with a multi-RBI game as the first baseman collected two in the loss.
After a two-run first inning highlighted by Ty McFarland’s RBI double to the center field wall, the Dukes were held scoreless until the sixth inning on Conner Brown’s RBI double. In the top of the seventh, the Dukes scored three runs on four hits and narrowed the gap to 8-6. JMU brought the game within one run in the top of the eighth inning on pinch-hitter Cole McInturff’s sacrifice fly made the score 8-7.
JMU had opportunities to take the lead in the final innings as the Dukes had the game-tying run on the bases in the eighth and ninth inning. Additionally, JMU left 10 men on the bases in the loss.
JMU starter Michael Howerton (3-5) suffered the loss after the righty yielded seven runs (six earned) on seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 2.1 innings on the mound.
Gunst gave the Dukes a chance as the reliever held the Blue Hens to one unearned run on one hit, one walk and two strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
The Blue Hens and Dukes continue their three-game set with game two on Friday, May 17 at 3:00 p.m. at Bob Hannah Stadium.
Delaware will hand the ball to right-hander Adam Davis (4-7, 3.73 earned-run average) while James Madison sends right-hander Patrick Toohers (2-8, 8.57 ERA) to the mound.
“Davis has thrown exceptionally well over his last five starts despite a lack of run support,” said Sherman. “I have challenged the team tomorrow to give Davis the run support that he deserves.”