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 death of star catcher Lauren Bernett.

JMU had scheduled games last week against Longwood and Delaware and upcoming match-ups slated against Virginia and Elon, which will all now be counted as “no contests” with no adjustments to the league standings, the school said.

Bernett, a sophomore from McDonald, Pennsylvania, died on April 25 with sheriff’s deputies considering it a “death investigation” that’s been “classified as an apparent suicide,” according to Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson. 

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

“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 now-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 conference play.

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 school history.

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. She was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the week.

Bernett’s passing marked the third Division I female athlete to die by suicide within a span of two months.

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

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