In a season filled with postponements and cancellations, the Diamond Dukes still played the equivalent of a half-season. After their 2020 season was cut short at 16 games due to the pandemic, the Dukes played 28 games this season, finishing with a record of 11-17.
“It was awesome [to be back], just being able to have the opportunity to get on the field even though we didn’t play as many games as we would’ve liked to,” redshirt junior outfielder Conor Hartigan said.
JMU’s season started off rough after losing its first four games — a similar start to the 2020 season when the Dukes lost their first three. This year, JMU was unable to string together a streak longer than two wins the entire season. Redshirt freshman outfielder/left-handed pitcher Chase DeLauter said COVID-19 cancellations and postponements affected the team’s performance.
With [COVID-19] and everything, we couldn’t really get into a rhythm,” DeLauter said. “We’d win a big weekend and then get shut down for a week or two, come back, and we’d have to re-sync in as a team.”
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Lliam Grubbs said he felt similar about how the team was affected by COVID-19. Grubbs said that the shutdowns and having to quarantine throughout the season affected their momentum.
“It was definitely a struggle for me personally getting quarantined the amount of times I did,” Grubbs said. “The guys that got quarantined and the weekends that got shut down made it really hard for us to get into a groove as a team. I think that affected a lot of our season, and it didn’t create the outcome we wanted.”
Hartigan played all 28 games this season, starting 27. He led the team in hits (43) and RBIs (24), and Hartigan had a 16-game hit streak from April 4 to May 20. He had a career-high four hits against William & Mary on April 24. Despite the Dukes only playing half a season, Hartigan said he was satisfied with his output on the diamond.
“This was my first full season, even though we only played 28 games,” Hartigan said. “Being able to play as well as I did was a blessing.”
A highlight that Hartigan said he looks back on from this season was from the road series against UNC Wilmington. When sliding into a base, Hartigan dislocated and ruptured a ligament in his index finger. Although he couldn’t hold a bat properly, Hartigan managed to play the rest of the season.
“I think it was my second at-bat I ended up hitting a home run, which was pretty cool given the circumstances,” Hartigan said. “Most of the season, I actually had to maneuver my hands around to be able to actually hit the ball; it ended up working out pretty well.”
DeLauter led the Dukes in runs scored, doubles, triples and home runs in his 26 games played. Like Hartigan, DeLauter had a career-high four hits against William & Mary on May 15. He reached base in 25 of 26 games and had a 24-game reached base streak at the end of the season.
“I feel like I performed pretty well,” DeLauter said. “At the position I’m put in as a lead-off hitter, I’m just trying to do whatever I can to be on base for my team.”
Grubbs made 12 appearances this season and defeated William & Mary on May 15, 10-7. He threw three strikeouts in four different games and ended the season with 18. Grubbs said he always felt confident with his team’s support when he would be on the mound in the later innings.
“Being able to go out in the later innings of the game, closing out and just knowing I had all my guys behind me who trust me to get guys out, I always felt pretty confident out there so I enjoyed that,” Grubbs said.
Hartigan said he believes the Diamond Dukes have one of the best offenses in the country. Looking toward next season, he feels that if JMU’s defense can improve, it’ll find more success in 2022.
“I think offensively we’re a pretty sound team, just getting it down defensively and on the mound and being able to put the defense with offense,” Hartigan said. “At that point, we’ll be a top contending team for sure.”
DeLauter noted that the pitching and hitting were inconsistent at times this season. He said that if the team can play in unison, they’ll improve next season.
“We had games where our pitching struggled but our hitters hit really well, and our hitters struggled but the pitching staff worked really well,” DeLauter said. “I feel like once we bring that all together and play how we know we all can, then we’ll be just fine.”
As for Grubbs, he also thinks if the team is able to bond together, then they’ll be able to improve next season. He detailed how COVID-19 protocols interfered with staying connected.
“One weekend we’d have the whole team, the next weekend we’d have ten guys gone or five guys gone [and] not at practice,” Grubbs said. “As a team, I would say hopefully [next season we can] just be able to come together as a family.”