Baseball hosts JU Invitational this weekend

After opening the 2010 season with four home games, the JU baseball team (1-3) will host the third-annual JU Invitational this weekend at John Sessions Stadium. Making its way to the First Coast for this year’s installment will be No. 20 Oklahoma (4-0), Richmond (2-1) and Valparaiso (0-3). The tournament, which will feature six games in three days, will begin on Friday - Valparaiso vs. No. 20 Oklahoma at Noon and Richmond vs. JU at 4 p.m. The event will continue on Saturday - Richmond vs. Valparaiso at 12 p.m. and No. 20 Oklahoma vs. JU beginning at 4 p.m. The tournament will end on Sunday - No. 20 Oklahoma vs. Richmond at 9:30 a.m. and Valparaiso vs. JU at 1:30 p.m. JU trails Richmond, 1-2, in the all-time series but the Dolphins won the last meeting (7-4) on Feb. 22, 2008 in the JU Invitational. The Dolphins will be facing Oklahoma and Valparaiso for the first time. JU’s opener against Richmond can be followed live through ASun.TV on All games featuring Oklahoma will be available for audio broadcast. OU and Richmond games also have livestats available.

No. 20 Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners are under the direction of sixth-year head coach Sunny Golloway. Golloway has led the Sooners to four NCAA Regional Finals, 170 victories and a top 25 ranking in each of his five years at the helm of the OU program. In 2009, the Sooners were awarded the program’s first national seed (No. 7) in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are led by preseason All-America junior closer Ryan Duke and sophomore shortstop Caleb Bushyhead.

Richmond Spiders
The Spiders are under the direction of third year head coach Mark McQueen, who had previously served as an assistant with the program for 13 years. McQueen, who played collegiately at Sam Houston State, served as an assistant coach at VCU (2001-06), Richmond (1989-00) and Iowa State (1987-88). Richmond, which has earned eight NCAA Regional bids (most recently, 2003) and one Super Regional (2002), was predicted to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches poll. The Spiders are led by junior designated hitter/pitcher Billy Barber and senior pitcher Matt Zielinski.

Valparaiso Crusaders
The Crusaders are under the guidance of fourth-year head coach Tracy Woodson, who led the program to a third-place finish in the Horizon League last season. Woodson, who played five season in the major leagues, was a corner infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers World Champion 1988 squad. Woodson began his career as manager of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (2004) and the Double-A Carolina Mudcats (2003), which are both affiliates of the Florida Marlins. Valpo is led by senior infielder Ryan O’Gara and junior pitcher Jon Gulbransen, who is the older brother of JU freshman center fielder Dan Gulbransen.

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. In the JU single-season record book, he also tied Talmadge Nunnari (1997) with 90 hits on the year. He is off to a good start in 2010 by going 9-for-15 (.600) with three RBI in four games. In the career book, he is currently 97 hits behind Ernie Carr (1985-88) for the program record. Opachich (222) surpassed Gordie Gronkowski (2003-06) for 10th and needs 19 to pass Rocky Rausch (1974-77) for fifth.