James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett, who helped the Dukes reach last year’s Women’s College World Series, has died at age 20. The school announced her death Tuesday, but did not give any further details.
In a combined statement, JMU president Jonathan Alger and athletic director Jeff Bourne said their “hearts are aching” over the death of Bernett, whom they described as “a high-achieving member of our softball team and a great ambassador of JMU and our athletics program.”
“We are grateful that Lauren has been part of our JMU Athletics community and will always consider her to be a Duke,” their statement read. “We will miss her dearly.
“Our thoughts are with her family; her coaches, teammates and friends; the rest of our department staff and student-athletes; and the entire JMU community. JMU Nation is a close community, and we grieve together.”
The release also announced the cancellation of JMU softball’s Wednesday doubleheader against Longwood and offered several mental-health resources.
The announcement of Bernett’s death came a day after the Colonial Athletic Association named her its Player of the Week. The sophomore catcher earned the honor Monday after going 7-for-9 with seven RBIs and four runs scored, including a home run, during a three-game sweep of Drexel this past weekend.
Many of Bernett’s teammates shared their reactions to the tragic news on social media. Kayla Boseman wrote Bernett will “never be forgotten” while Emily Phillips added she’s going to miss her “more than anything.” Meredith Wells called Bernett “a light to so many.”
Former JMU star Odicci Alexander, Softball America’s 2021 Pitcher of the Year, wrote “Love you LB” with a broken heart emoji two minutes before tweeting “You really never know what someone is going through.”