HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — James Madison has canceled the remainder of its softball season as the school tries to cope with the suicide of one of its star players last week.
Lauren Bernett, a sophomore catcher and cleanup hitter for the Dukes, died April 25 following a stellar weekend series against Drexel, for which she was named the Colonial Athletic Association's player of the week. The Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia ruled the death a suicide.
“This was an extremely difficult decision and one that was not made lightly,” JMU coach Loren LaPorte said in a news release of the cancellation. “We are so grateful for the support of our fans all season and for the love from the softball community during the past week. We will use this time to continue healing and to honor Lauren’s memory while finishing the academic semester strong."
LaPorte said the school recognizes the decision brings an abrupt end to the careers of seniors on the team, and “we will make sure that they are honored for the commitment and dedication they have made as student-athletes.”
The cancellations include a May 3 game against Virginia and a three-game league series May 6-7 against Elon. Five games previously were canceled: a doubleheader against Longwood and a weekend series with Delaware. The series with the Blue Hens, as well as one with Elon, have been declared no contests, with no bearing on the conference standings.
James Madison (21-21, 10-5 CAA) was one game behind Delaware for the top spot in the league before Bernett's death.
In tribute to Bernett, teams including Liberty and Tennessee have worn purple ribbons in their hair during games.
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