Baseball opens 2010 season this weekend against UNC-Wilmington
Senior Glenn WItkowski takes the hill for the Dolphins in the season opener.
Senior Glenn WItkowski takes the hill for the Dolphins in the season opener.
After earning its third NCAA Regional appearance in the last four years, the JU baseball team will open the 2010 campaign against UNC-Wilmington with a three-game set beginning on Friday at 4 p.m. at John Sessions Stadium. Game two of the series will begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. before the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. JU leads the all-time series against UNCW after defeating the Seahawks (9-0) on Feb. 24, 2008 in the JU Invitational. The first two games of the series can been seen live on A-Sun.TV with J.P. Shadrick calling all of the action on

­­­JU second in preseason poll
After tallying the program’s third NCAA Regional bid in the last four years with a 2009 A-Sun Tournament victory, the JU baseball team has been picked to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference according to the 2010 preseason coaches poll. Defending regular season champion Florida Gulf Coast led the poll with 120 points, including 11 first place votes, while JU (106) and Stetson (82) made up the top three. Kennesaw State ranked fourth with 81 points while UNF rounded out the top five with 69 points. FGCU was also voted as tournament champion with eight votes. Mercer and Lipscomb (62), Belmont (53), ETSU (45), Campbell (34) and USC Upstate (12) made up the rest of the poll.

Three named preseason all-A-Sun
Senior second baseman Chuck Opachich, senior pitcher Matt Loosen and junior pitcher Chris Kaminski each represented the Dolphins on the A-Sun preseason all-conference team. Loosen earned a unanimous selection after boasting a 4-1 record with two saves and 4.16 ERA in 2009 while also ranking nationally in strikeouts (59th, 91) and strikeouts per nine innings (43rd, 10.24). Kaminski joined the squad as a relief pitcher in 2009 after posting a team-best 2.70 ERA and a 5-1 record while notching, eight saves and 33 strikeouts in 34 innings. Opachich earned preseason honors for the second time after hitting .377 with 42 RBI and 19 stolen bases. FGCU junior first baseman Zach Maxfield was selected preseason "Player of the Year" while FGCU junior starter Chris Sale was named preseason "Pitcher of the Year".

JU inks seven during early signining
JU announced the signing of seven student-athletes during the 2009-10 signing period, including nationally ranked shortstop Taylor Ratliff (Perry, Fla.) and local products Zack Houck (LHP/OF, Eagles View Academy) and Tony Mollica (LHP, Mandarin). Along with Ratliff and the local products, C Patrick Long (McDonough, Ga.), RHP Chris Anderson (Lino Lakes, Minn.), LHP Will Flor (Bloomington, Minn.) and RHP Adam Maxon (Oviedo, Fla.) will make up the 2009-10 signing class for the Dolphins. Ratliff (6-3, 185), currently a senior shortstop at Taylor County High School in Perry, Fla., is rated 9.5 out of 10 by and is a potential top 10 round draft pick. He was also recruited by Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Michigan and Harvard. As a junior, he batted .435 with six doubles, three triples and 15 stolen bases before hitting .650 with 10 doubles, four triples and 20 stolen bases in 65 appearances with Perfect Game over the summer. Rawlings National Team “Honorable Mention”, all-Florida Team by Prospect Wire Scouting Network and 2010 Pre-Season Under Armour All-America. Houck (6-1, 175), currently senior LHP/OF at Eagles View Academy, earned second team all-state, first team all-city and Rawlings Honorable Mention All-America honors as a junior after batting .430 with 25 stolen bases and 43 runs while going 9-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 60 innings. As a sophomore, he helped the Warriors to a state championship after batting .400 with 16 stolen bases, 30 runs and 21 RBI while going 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA in 30 innings. Mollica (6-1, 190) is currently a senior LHP at Mandarin High School. Anderson (6-4, 215) is currently a senior RHP at Centennial High School in Lino Lakes, Minn. Flor (6-3, 175), currently a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, is a three-year starter for the Jaguars and helped the squad to the state finals as a sophomore. As a junior, he finished with a 3.89 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 27 innings. Long (6-1, 190) is currently a senior catcher at Eagles Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Ga. Maxon (6-0, 180), currently a senior RHP at Oviedo High School in Oviedo, Fla., earned all-conference honors as a junior after batting .317 with 14 RBI while finishing 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 19 innings. During summer ball with Mizuno, he finished 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

Murphy is Mets’ pick at 1B
Former JU baseball player Daniel Murphy, who is the ninth Dolphin to play in the majors, completed a winter mini-camp with the New York Mets coaching staff and is slated to start the 2010 season at first base. Murphy was the only position player to attend minicamp, giving the Mets' staff a good look at what he may offer this season. The 14-player session ended on Jan. 27. Mets general manager Omar Minaya said this week the organization had been monitoring Carlos Delgado, who saw limited time on the field while playing in Puerto Rico this winter. Delgado and Fernando Tatis, who both spent some time at first base for the Mets last year, are free agents. Murphy said his dad has been reading the papers and following what the Mets and others are saying about Delgado, but he hasn't paid much attention himself. He has spent the offseason working out at Jacksonville University and preparing to play first base. Murphy is coming off his first full season in the majors, which he began in left field and ended at first base, where he made 97 starts and often struggled in the field. Murphy had an up-and-down season at the plate, batting .266 with 12 home runs, 38 doubles and 63 RBIs. Manuel and hitting coach Howard Johnson, whose on Glen currently plays at JU, expect big improvements this year, especially in the doubles category.

JU hires Tommy Murphy
Tommy Murphy, who spent two years in the major leagues and was a member of four professional organizations over the last 10 years, will replace Todd Claus on the staff after he was recruited back to his advanced scouting position with the Boston Red Sox. In 10 professional seasons, which began after being scouted out of college and managed by Claus, Murphy spent eight years with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2000-07) before his final two years with the Florida Marlins (2008), Washington Nationals (2008) and Kansas City Royals (2009). A third-round choice by the Angels in 2000, Murphy worked his way through the franchise’s farm system with the Boise Hawks (Low-A, 2000), Cedar Rapids Kernels (Single-A, 2001, 2002 – under Claus), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A, 2001, 2003) , Arkansas Travelers (Double-A, 2004-05) and Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A, 2006-07) before making it to the majors. In 2006, he was called up to the Angels on May 4 and played in 48 games as a center fielder. In 2007, he started out on the opening day roster with the squad and played in 20 games throughout the year while bouncing back and forth between the majors and Salt Lake. After being granted free agency in 2008, Murphy was signed by the Washington Nationals and sent to the Columbus Clippers (Triple-A) for 70 games. After being released by the Nationals, the Florida Marlins picked up his rights and played out the rest of the season with the Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A). After being granted free agency again in 2009, he was signed by the Kansas City Royals and invited to spring training before finishing the season with the Omaha Royals (Triple-A). A three-year letterwinner as an outfielder at Florida Atlantic University, Murphy was a 1999 Baseball America Pre-Season All-America selection before helping the Owls to the nation’s best record (54-9), while also tying Texas’ 1977 record with 34 consecutive victories that season. The Suffern, N.Y. native was inducted into the FAU Baseball Hall of Fame on Feb. 21, 2008.

JU in the NCAA’s
* The Dolphins made their 13th appearance in the NCAA Regionals in 2009, including their ninth under head coach Terry Alexander.
* The Dolphins have reached the NCAA Regionals in three of the past four years (2006, 2007, 2009), which is the most successful run in program history.
* In 13 regional bids, the Dolphins have played at eight regional sites. JU competed in Tallahassee, Fla. for five of its appearances (1976, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2003) and Gainesville, Fla. for two (1991, 2009).  The program has also made stops in Fort Eustis, Va. (1968), Gastonia, N.C. (1972), Starkville, Miss. (1989), Clemson, S.C. (1995), Athens, Ga. (2006) and Chapel Hill, N.C. (2007).
* The Dolphins have one player remaining from their 2007 regional: senior second baseman Chuck Opachich.
* JU has come within one game of advancing out of the Regionals twice. In 1976, JU eliminated Florida State before falling in the championship game to Auburn. The Dolphins’ next shot was in 1994, advancing to the finals before falling to Florida State.

JU records (2009)
Team: K’s: second (451)...2B: fifth (123)...HR: sixth (62)...RBI: eighth (399)...Hits: tied for eighth (619 - 1999)...Saves: tied for eighth (13 - 2005, 1999, 1989)...Total bases: ninth (946)...SLG: 10th (.460). Individual (single-season): Jeremy Gillan: eighth in batting average (.400) and was first Dolphin to finish at .400 since Hauseman (.401-2003)...tied for sixth with 21 doubles...tied for eigth with 144 total bases...Chuck Opachich: tied for fourth in hits (90 - Talmadge Nunnari, 1997)...Chris Kaminski: tied for fourth in saves (8)...Matt Loosen: ninth with 91 strikeouts.

More notables
JU received votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers (NCBW) Top 30 Poll on March 30 and May 25...the Dolphins finished the year 53rd in RPI rankings (.551), 74th in IRS rankings (108.7) and 107th in strength of schedule, according to Boyds the A-Sun rankings, the Dolphins were third in team ERA (5.20) and seventh in team batting average (.301) in the conference rankings...senior Jeremy Gillan was ranked second amongst collegiate catchers by’s College Power Rankings...JU had three players with at least 10 home runs (Jeremy Gillan, Thomas Myers, Alex Martinez) for only the second time in program history. The record of six was set by the 1983 squad...JU and Utah were the only Division I schools to win a conference championship in football, men’s basketball and baseball in 2008-09.

Chuck-O milestone
Senior Chuck Opachich enters his final year in a Dolphin uniform and is primed to etch his name in the JU history book. A major cog in the program’s most successful run in the last four years, Opachich has garnered several honors including A-Sun all-freshman (2007), A-Sun preseaon all-conference (2008, 2010), A-Sun all-tournament (2007, 2009) and A-Sun first team all-conference (2009) accolades. Last season, Opachich set a milestone by tying Talmadge Nunnari (1997) with a program record 27-game hitting streak. During the streak from March 7-April 18, Opachich batted .434 (53-122) while the Dolphins went 20-7. In the JU single-season record book, he also tied Talmadge Nunnari (1997) with 90 hits on the year. In the career book, he is currently 106 hits behind Ernie Carr (1985-88) for the program record. Opachich (213) needs six hits to surpass Gordie Gronkowski (2003-06) for 10th and 28 to pass Rocky Rausch (1974-77) for fifth.

“Wild Thing” is back
JU has been in desperate need of a closer since Hunter Davis tallied 11 in 2005 and now the Dolphins have one in junior Chris Kaminski. The Richmond, Texas native joined JU in 2009 after going 6-0 with a 3.86 ERA, four saves and 54 strikeouts as a freshman at Weatherford Junior College. Kaminski lived up to the hype by leading the A-Sun with eight saves in nine opportunities last season while toping the bullpen with 25 appearances, a 2.70 ERA, five wins and 33.1 innings while helping the squad to a 28-1 record when leading after eight innings. For his efforts, he earned A-Sun second team all-conference honors and was named to the 2010 preseason all-conference team. Currently ninth on the JU career list, Kaminski needs five saves to pass Davis and Scott Porter (1996-99) for fifth. He needs only nine saves to overcome Joe Ausanio (1985-88) as the programs top closer.

Hold on Loosen
Junior Matt Loosen was "Mr. Fix It" out of the bullpen in 17 games for JU in 2009. In six appearances out of the pen, Loosen tallied two saves while posting a 2.35 ERA, a staff-high 22 strikeouts and a bullpen-best 15.1 innings of work. Among his most influential outings was striking out four in the final two innings in a win over No. 6 Florida State. Loosen also helped turn the tide in the SunTrust River City Rumble series by tallying the save in a 4-3 win over UNF in game two. Due to injuries, Loosen was pressed into service in the starting rotation and has been there ever since. He led the staff with 91 strikeouts, 80 innings and a .235 opponent batting average to garner second team all-conference honors. He was among three Dolphins to be named to the 2010 A-Sun all-preseason team.

Montez continues to produce MLB talent
JU associate head coach/pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Tim Montez can add another pupil to his list of major league players as former Fresno State pitcher Doug Fister took the hill for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 9, 2009. Fister, who played for Montez at Fresno State, hurled a scoreless inning of relief in Seattle’s 10-4 loss to Tampa Bay in his major league debut. Montez recruited Fister, who was a draft and follow out of Merced Junior College, and was also a sixth-round pick by the New York Yankees after the 2005 season. Fister eventually signed with the Mariners after being selected in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. Along with Fister, another former Montez pupil made his way back to the majors as Justin Lehr, who Montez recruited at UC Santa Barbara, allowed three runs in a five inning no-decision for the Cincinnati Reds against Colorado on July 31. He followed that effort with a complete game shutout win against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 5. Lehr had not pitched in the majors since 2006 when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. In 18 seasons as an assistant coach at the Division I level, Montez has seen 36 pitchers sign professional contracts and has coached, recruited or worked with 15 major league players including Matt Garza (Tampa Bay Rays), Cliff Lee (Seattle Mariners), Michael Young (Texas Rangers), Russ Ortiz (Los Angeles Dodgers), Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants), Adam Kennedy (Washington Nationals) and Eric Hinske (Atlanta Braves). Montez also served as a pitching coach with Arkansas, Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine and has coached in the NCAA Regionals eight times (Pepperdine -1, UCSB - 1, Arkansas - 3, Jacksonville - 3), including a spot in the Super Regional (Arkansas, 2002). In four years at JU, the Dolphins have earned their first A-Sun regular-season title (2006), two A-Sun Conference Championships (2007, 2009).