After rain delayed the start of the weekend, the JU baseball team (7-6) will finally open conference play against Belmont (10-2) on Saturday with a doubleheader at John Sessions Stadium beginning at 1 p.m.
The series will conclude on Sunday at Noon.
JU leads Belmont in the all-time series, 15-14, including a 7-5 win over the Bruins in the first round of the A-Sun Tournament on May 23, 2009.
The first game of the doubleheader on Saturday can heard on 1010XL with Barry Milligan calling all of the action while J.P. Shadrick provides color analysis. Both games on Saturday can be viewed live on ASun.TV and can be accessed on JUDolphins.com. Sunday’s contest will only be available through statcrew play-by-play updates on JUDolpins.com
Belmont enters the weekend earning votes in the NCBWA Baseball Poll on March 8...JU is currently in the midst of eight games in eight days and are 3-2 thus far. After competing on five consecutive days, the Dolphins had their first day off on Thursday...after only scoring first in two of its first 11 games, the Dolphins have now crossed the plate first in their last two...after committing 22 errors (2.4 epg) in its first nine games, JU has only two errors in its last four (0.5 epg), including no errors in back-to-back games (James Madison, FSU)...JU, which received preseason votes in the NCBWA and USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, received votes in the USA Today/ESPN poll on March 1...the Dolphins are 4-6 in their last 10 games against ranked opponents.
A tale of two teams - A-Sun rankings
TEAM: Batting Average - JU (8th-.302), BU (4th-.343)...ERA - JU (6th-5.38), BU (9th-6.61)...Fielding - JU (7th-.953), BU (10th-.943)...Runs Scored - JU (3rd-109), BU (6th-97).
INDIVIDUAL: Batting Average - Dylan Craig (4th-.440)...SLUG: Nate Woods (3rd-.766), Adam Brett Walker (5th-.735)...OBP: Dan Gulbransen (4th-.536)...2B: Nate Woods (T3rd-7), Alex Martinez (T3rd-7)...3B: Jimmy Howick (T1st-2)...ERA: Chris Kaminski (5th-1.62)...IP: Chase Brookshire (2nd-18.2), Matt Tomshaw (T4th-18)...Saves: Jon Ivie (1st-6), Chris Kaminski (T3rd-2).
Producing more than just cheese
Thus far in 2010, the Wisconsin freshman duo of Dan Gulbransen and Adam Brett Walker are making Dolphin fans contemplate Cheesehead gear despite the Jacksonville Jaguars living across the St. John’s River.
Gulbransen, a center fielder from Appleton, is second on the squad with a .381 batting average, 29 total bases and a .595 slugging percentage. He also leads the team with a .536 on-base percentage and is third with 16 hits, four doubles and 11 RBI.
Walker, an OF/DH from Milwaukee, is third with a .353 batting average, four doubles and 11 RBI but leads the squad with three home runs and a .735 slugging percentage.
Arms making their way back
The Dolphin pitching staff was not at 100 percent at the start of the season but things are slowly working towards that goal.
Junior Matt Loosen was sidelined the first two weeks with a knee injury but has made three appearances and two starts since Feb. 28.
Junior Sean Green has been slowed by a shoulder injury and also missed the first two weeks. He made his first start on a limited pitch count on Feb. 28 and has made two relief appearance since then.
Sophomore Steve Eagerton missed all of last season after recovering from elbow surgery. After two weeks, he made his first collegiate start against Wagner on March 6.
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 preseason 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 Nunnari (1997) with 90 hits on the year.
He is off to a good start in 2010 by going 19-for-48 (.396) with 15 runs and nine RBI through 12 games.
In the career book, he is currently 86 hits behind Ernie Carr (1985-88) for the program record. Opachich needs nine 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 three saves to pass Davis and Scott Porter (1996-99) for fifth. He needs only seven saves to overcome Joe Ausanio (1985-88) as the programs top closer.
Hold on Loosen
Junior Matt Loosen has returned from injury and is showing people why he was a unanimous preseaon selection.
He was among three Dolphins to be named to the 2010 A-Sun all-preseason team.
After missing the first week of the season with a knee injury, Loosen made his first appearance against Richmond on Feb. 28. He followed that up with his first start on March 3 at Bethune-Cookman - allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with a walk and three strikeouts in five innings.
He looks to be in mid-seaon form after his performance against No. 2 Florida State on March 8. The Noles entered the contest scoring at least 10 runs in nine of its 10 games but Loosen allowed only one run on six hits while striking out a career-best 11 batters in seven innings.