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College softball star Lauren Bernett died of apparent suicide, authorities say

James Madison University announced Bernett's death Tuesday, saying in a statement, "Our hearts are aching."
Lauren Bernett was a sophomore catcher on James Madison University's softball team.
Lauren Bernett was a sophomore catcher on James Madison University's softball team.Colin E. Braley / AP

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com for additional resources.

Lauren Bernett, the star softball player at James Madison University whose death at age 20 was announced earlier this week, died of an apparent suicide, according to authorities in Virginia.

“We are in the process of conducting a death investigation into the incident and it is currently classified as an apparent suicide,” Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday.

"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," he added.

Lauren Bernett
Bernett's death was announced one day after she received a player of the week honor.Terrance Coakley / AP

Bernett was a sophomore catcher who ranked third in batting average, third in home runs and second in RBIs on the school’s softball team this season. She helped the team make it to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in the school's history last year.

JMU announced Bernett's death Tuesday, just one day after Bernett was named CAA player of the week. The school did not disclose a cause of death at the time.

“Our hearts are aching, hearing the news of the loss of one of our student-athletes,” read a joint letter to the JMU community from the school’s president, Jonathan Alger, and director of athletics, Jeff Bourne.

“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.”

According to a bio on the JMU school website, Bernett was a biology major from McDonald, Pennsylvania.

In Tuesday's joint letter, Alger and Bourne called JMU a "tight family" that would be grieving Bernett's death together.

“We are grateful that Lauren has been part of our JMU Athletics community," they wrote, "and will always consider her to be a Duke."

The softball team's scheduled games for the rest of the week have been canceled.