James Madison Softball Is Running Through the Big 12's Best

In this weekend's Hot Clicks: The Dukes are ready for the big leagues, MLB's sticky situation and more.
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The Dukes!

For years, there have been musings of a potential FBS jump for James Madison. And for years, the CAA school with a mid-eight-figure budget that sits alongside the higher end of Group of 5 schools, the Dukes haven’t made—or, from all indications, seriously pursued—a move to, presumably, the American Athletic Conference.

Forget the AAC; the Dukes should aim higher and demand an invitation to the Big 12, though the conference’s softball programs might push back as JMU runs through the conference’s best programs in the Women’s College World Series.

On Friday, one day after shocking No. 1-seed Oklahoma (in a de facto home game for the Sooners in Oklahoma City) with an eighth-inning home run, James Madison shocked No. 5-seed Oklahoma State with one of the most incredible plays you’ll ever see on a diamond:

James Madison is the first-ever unseeded team to start 2–0 in the WCWS and reach the semifinals. The Dukes are scheduled to play again on Sunday.

To the Moon

Wright State entered Friday’s NCAA tournament game against Tennessee in the Knoxville Regional leading the nation in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And the Raiders showed out at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, hitting five home runs in building an 8–5 lead entering the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Vols, in their second straight tourney appearance after whiffing on 13 straight from 2006 to '18, loaded the bases with one out. And sophomore outfielder Drew Gilbert sent a hanging breaking ball to the moon, which prompted a glorious bat flip and 35-second home run trot:

Sticky Stuff

“No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper, or other foreign substance,” reads Rule 3.01 “The Ball” in the MLB rule book.

Cool, say MLB pitchers, “80 to 90%” of whom are illegally doctoring the baseball with some mixture of sunscreen, rosin, and/or glue, a recently retired pitcher estimates.

SI’s Stephanie Apstein and Alex Prewitt did a deep dive into what “should be the biggest scandal in sports,” the rampant pitch-doctoring leading to a league-wide batting average of .236. They spoke with more than 20 people across baseball—from current and former players to clubhouse attendants and minor-league pitchers—and analyzed the dramatic increase in spin rates as pitchers throw “unhittable pitches.”

“One ball made its way into an NL dugout last week, where players took turns touching a palm to the sticky material coating it and lifting the baseball, adhered to their hand, into the air. Another one, corralled in a different NL dugout, had clear-enough fingerprints indented in the goo that opponents could mimic the pitcher’s grip. A third one, also in the NL, was so sticky that when an opponent tried to pull the glue off, three inches of seams came off with it.”

Here’s the full story.

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