Apparent cause of death revealed for James Madison softball star, Pa. native Lauren Bernett

James Madison catcher Lauren Bernett is believed to have died by suicide, authorities said Wednesday.

She was 20.

Bernett was a native of McDonald, Pennsylvania and she played at South Fayette High School before going on to James Madison. The sophomore was a star for James Madison, starting through her first two seasons at the school, and playing a key role in helping the team make it to the College World Series in 2021.

James Madison announced Bernett’s death Tuesday, one day after she was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week.

“We are in the process of conducting a death investigation and it is currently classified as an apparent suicide,’ Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said. “The official report from the Medical Examiner’s Office is pending, and out of respect for her family and friends, there is no other information to release at this time.”

James Madison has canceled his next five softball games.

“Our hearts are aching, hearing the news of the loss of one of our student-athletes,” James Madison President Jonathan Alger said in a message posted to the school’s softball website Tuesday. “Lauren Bernett was a high-achieving member of our softball team and a great ambassador of JMU and our athletics program. She was a key member of our 2021 Women’s College World Series team as a freshman catcher last year.

“College athletics is great because of the people with whom we get to interact every day,” he added. “We are a tight family. We are grateful that Lauren has been part of our JMU Athletics community and will always consider her to be a Duke. 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 is a close community and we grieved together.”

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