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JMU softball's incredible run continues Sunday. Here's what you need to know:
COLLEGE SOFTBALL

JMU softball's incredible run continues Sunday. Here's what you need to know:

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WCWS Oklahoma St James Madison Softball

James Madison’s Kate Gordon gestures to her dugout as she runs toward home plate to score during the third inning Friday against Oklahoma State in the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Former Olympic softball pitcher Monica Abbott was quick to declare it the “play of the year” on social media.

Jennie Finch, another famous Olympian, sent her praise to JMU’s Odicci Alexander: “I love her!”

The Dukes are one of the biggest stories in sports right now, and are one victory away from the finals in the Women’s College World Series.

Their dramatic extra-innings victory Thursday was topped only by Alexander’s game-saving defensive dive on Friday.

Here’s what you need to know:

Semifinal Sunday awaits

James Madison faces either No. 1 Oklahoma or No. 2 UCLA on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN. NCAA softball games are a 7-inning format.

Their opponent will already have a loss in the double-elimination format, and the Dukes do not. So if JMU wins, they advance to the title series. If the Dukes lose, the two teams will meet again at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 in a winner-take-all format.

This didn’t come out of nowhere...

The Dukes have been a softball power for some time now. They haven’t missed an NCAA tournament since 2013.

In 2017, pitcher Megan Good was named the national player of the year.

This year’s JMU team hadn’t lost since March 28 before dropping one of three games to Missouri in the super regional last weekend.

Still, for all JMU’s historic success, the Dukes had never reached the WCWS.

...but their star pitcher did.

Dukes ace Odicci Alexander (pronounced like odyssey) went to Park View High, near South Hill off I-85 near the North Carolina border.

Coach Loren LaPorte was scouting a different player at a state tournament game when she noticed Alexander and offered her a scholarship. The rest is history.

Alexander tamed the Sooners’ prolific offense on Thursday, then saved the day Friday night against Oklahoma State, making a diving tag at the plate in the seventh inning to preserve a one-run lead.

“Just to see her leave her feet and make that tag, it’s unbelievable,” LaPorte said. “I can’t even describe it any other way.”

It was SportsCenter’s No. 1 play of the day, with the rest of the softball world declaring it the play of the year.

“I really didn’t have time to flip it to (the catcher), so I just went for it,” Alexander said in her understated style. “It was a big out. I’m glad I did it.”

Can they keep it up?

LaPorte said the Dukes want to strike a balance between celebrating one of the school’s greatest runs across all sports, and staying focused for the next game.

“It’s a fine line of still enjoying this a little bit longer, but still getting prepared for the next one,” she said. “You talk all the time about getting ready for the next game. But this is pretty special.”

Junior Lynsey Meeks said getting Saturday off, a perk of winning the first two games, was big for the Dukes.

“We’re going to take a nice rest day and revitalize and rest, because we’ve got a long way to go,” she said. “We’re looking to win it all.”

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