HARRISONBURG, Va. — When James Madison starting pitcher Jailyn Ford had to leave the game with an injury, the NCAA super regional opener could have turned in LSU’s favor.
Instead things worked out just fine for the Dukes as they went on to beat the Tigers 3-2 on Friday afternoon to start the best-of-three series at Veterans Memorial Park.
The No. 7 seed Dukes (50-4) can advance to the Women’s College World Series with one victory Saturday. The season for the Tigers (48-16) will be on the line in game two at 11 a.m. (ESPN). LSU must win that game to force a decisive third game at 2 p.m. (ESPNU).
Megan Good (32-2), who had tied the score with a solo home run just before Ford singled and was injured stealing second base in the third inning, hit another homer and held the Tigers to just Sandra Simmons’ solo homer in four innings of relief.
Good and Ford take turns in the circle. When one pitches, the other plays first base.
“I knew she would do the same thing for me,” Good said of Ford, “so I just went out there and did it.”
Ford’s absence also had a trickle-down effect, forcing freshman Jenny Behan, who had just 27 at-bats all season, into the game. She drew a walk in the middle of JMU’s rally that broke a 2-2 tie against Carley Hoover (20-8) in the bottom of the seventh.
Erica Field led off the seventh by beating out a grounder to second, and Morgan Tolle followed by beating out a bunt. Good’s grounder to first advanced the runners before Behan earned the walk on a 3-2 pitch.
“What a great at-bat,” Dukes coach Mickey Dean said.
After Hoover induced a force out at home for the second out, Jessica Mrozek lined a single to right to score the winning run.
“I left a fastball (over the) middle,” Hoover said.
The hit made Mrozek 3-for-5 with the bases loaded this year.
“I was standing there at third base when she came up,” Dean said, “and I was like, ‘Man, we’re going to win this right now.’ ”
Mrozek was hitless in her first three at-bats, striking out with the bases loaded to end the first and hitting into a fielder’s choice in the third.
“I was swinging at her pitches,” Mrozek said. “So my last at-bat, I was just focusing on getting a pitch that I liked and that I could drive, and she gave it to me.”
Mrozek’s hit set off a wild celebration as JMU (50-4) won in its first super regional game.
“We know who we are, and we’re going to do what we do. And they’re LSU, and they’re going to do what they do,” Dean said. “It’s going to be another great game (Saturday), and it’s going to be another electric atmosphere.”
LSU quieted the standing-room-only crowd of 2,331 — the largest in JMU history — in the second inning when Sahvanna Jaquish led off with a single, Kellsi Kloss sacrificed her to second and one out later Connie Quinn doubled her home. The Tigers tried to increase the lead, but Quinn was thrown out trying to score on Amber Serrett’s single to left.
Good led off the third with her fifth homer of the season before Ford’s single led to her mishap on the bases; she injured her non-throwing shoulder.
“She’s our stolen base leader over the last four years, and that was a very awkward slide,” Dean said. “She landed on her right shoulder when she slid. I don’t know how and neither does she, but she did.”
Dean said Ford lobbied throughout the game to get back in, and she was able to get loose in the bullpen and swing a bat.
“I just didn’t feel like putting her back in the game because I knew we had to play (Saturday),” Dean said. “It was painful. I don’t want her in the circle if she’s in pain.”
Dean said Ford would be available Saturday, but he doesn’t reveal which pitcher he is starting — even to the players — until an hour before the game.
Good was nearly flawless except for allowing Simmons’ fifth homer of the season, which broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth, but Good followed with her second homer of the game in the bottom half to tie the score again.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to come together as a team and fight through this,” Simmons said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that there isn’t a player who doesn’t believe we can do it. It’s just another extra game that we want to play.”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.