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A rookie leader for JMU

Josh Jones is getting more than just a little playing time as a freshman on the James Madison University baseball team. The former Randolph-Henry High School star is leading the NCAA Division I Dukes with a .316 batting average and has been a consistent, reliable defender at the shortstop position.

“He’s done a great job,” James Madison Head Coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “Coming in, being a freshman shortstop’s tough to do at this level, and he’s transitioned very well, and we knew coming in, he could play defense and be an everyday shortstop. I will tell you that we are very pleasantly surprised at the way his bat has matured and how he’s swinging the bat right now for us. He’s hitting anywhere between three and five in our lineup, and to hit in the middle of the lineup as a freshman is a pretty special player.”

Through 37 games, all of which he has started, Jones is among team leaders in hits with 43.

He said he feels pretty good about his freshman collegiate campaign so far.

“(I’m) just coming in here, working hard with the guys every day, just trying to get better in every aspect,” he said. “It’s just been a lot of fun. It’s just been a great time and a great experience.”

In contrasting the high school and college levels of baseball, a key word for Jones was “more.” “It’s just a lot more games, so it’s a lot more baseball,” he said, adding that good time management has been a must. “It’s a lot more, and you have to rest a lot more and everything like that. I would probably just say the amount of games and balancing with school and stuff has probably been the biggest transition.” In evaluating why he has been able to become an impact player so quickly in college, Jones deflected the praise.

“I think getting ready for college and everything, I thought I was preparing myself pretty well, but I think once I got here, the coaches definitely did a great job of preparing me and I think brought me a long way and helped me out a lot,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s obviously nice to produce for your team as a freshman and everything, but I was definitely well-prepared by the coaches.”

He said the goal of the Dukes (21-19) is to win the Colonial Athletic Association championship first and see what happens.