May 23, 2022
James Madison University cancels softball season after star player Lauren Bernett’s death
James Madison University came to the "extremely difficult decision" to cancel the rest of its softball season, school officials said Monday, following the death of star catcher Lauren Bernett.JMU had scheduled games last week against Longwood University and the University of Delaware, as well as coming matchups against the University of Virginia and Elon University,…

James Madison University came to the “extremely difficult decision” to cancel the rest of its softball season, school officials said Monday, following the death of star catcher Lauren Bernett.

JMU had scheduled games last week against Longwood University and the University of Delaware, as well as coming matchups against the University of Virginia and Elon University, which will be counted as “no contests” with no adjustments to the league standings, the school said.

Bernett, a sophomore from McDonald, Pennsylvania, died April 25. Sheriff’s deputies said they were conducting a “death investigation” that has been “classified as an apparent suicide,” Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said. 

Dukes softball coach Loren LaPorte said in statement the school in Harrisonburg, Virginia, released Monday: “This was an extremely difficult decision and one that was not made lightly.

“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.”

Tuesday’s canceled game against in-state rival Virginia would have been the last home appearance for JMU seniors.

“Most importantly, we’re thinking about our graduating seniors whose careers have come to an abrupt conclusion,” La Porte said. “We will make sure that they are honored for the commitment and dedication they have made as student-athletes at James Madison University.”

JMU concludes its season at 21-21 overall and 10-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

As a freshman last year, Bernett started 43 games as the Dukes went 41-4 and advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the first time.

In JMU’s last game, a week ago Sunday, Bernett had a banner game, going 4-for-4 with a homer and two doubles in an 11-4 win at Drexel University. She was named the conference’s player of the week.

Bernett was the third Division I female athlete to die by suicide within two months.

Wisconsin runner Sarah Shulze died April 13, and Stanford soccer goalkeeper Katie Meyer passed away March 1.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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