TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2011
Baseball ends skid with 4-2 win over Georgia Southern
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Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan
Entering the contest with a two-game slide and an 0-5 record in mid-week games, seven Dolphin pitchers combined to allow only six hits while a pair of homers led the JU baseball team to a 4-2 win over Georgia Southern, Tuesday evening at John Sessions Stadium.

JU (15-10), which also snapped a three-game losing streak to GSU (15-11), broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the fourth while adding an insurance run in the eighth to help hold off a late rally by the Eagles.

“I’m very proud of the way we came together as a team and had such a great performance,” said JU head coach Terry Alexander. “The pitching staff put forth a great effort and our defense also picked them up when we needed it. This is a great way to end our homestand as we head back into conference this weekend.”

Sophomore Joe Ryan (1-0) got his first collegiate win after hurling an inning of scoreless relief. Senior Brian Gilroy got a no-decision despite allowing only one hit in three innings of work. Junior Clay Kollenbaum and junior Sean Green also added scoreless innings while freshman Chris Anderson notched his third save of the season by closing out the ninth.

Justin Hess (0-2) was tagged with the loss after allowing three runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

Sophomore Dan Gulbransen led the Dolphins offense by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. Sophomore designated hitter Adam Brett Walker added a two-run homer, his team-leading sixth of the year.

Victor Roache led the Eagles by going 2-for-4 with a home run while Ben Morgan went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

JU took a 3-0 lead in the fourth when Gulbransen hit an RBI single up the middle and Walker hit a two-run homer to center field. GSU cut the deficit to 3-1 in the Roache hit a solo homer to left field.

The Dolphins would extend the lead to 4-1 in the eighth when Gulbransen led off the inning with a solo shot to right center.

The Eagles would cut the deficit to 4-2 in the ninth when Morgan drove in a run with an infield single. GSU would still threaten with the bases loaded and one out but Anderson would end the game by striking out Garren Palmer and getting Shawn Payne to fly out to right.

The Dolphins will return to A-Sun play this weekend on the road against Belmont beginning on Friday at 6 p.m. ET. The contest can be followed through live stats by logging onto JUDolphins.com.

FEATURE: A northeastern native’s take on college baseball in the southeast

by JU assistant media relations director Brian Bohl

Total cloud cover served as the backdrop to a twilight start at John Sessions Stadium on Tuesday. The wind off the banks of the St. John’s River whipped around the already-chilly air, providing an ambience familiar to many college baseball fans for March games. While long sleeves and windbreakers serve as the usual garments for ballplayers in the northeast this time of year, the sight of them on a Jacksonville University player is uncommon and likely will be shelved for good come the next homestand. But the weather is just one of many differences between college baseball squads in the Sunshine State compared to teams who reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Before taking a job in media relations at Jacksonville University, I spent the previous two years working as the sports information director for the baseball team at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The Pride plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, which features schools such as Old Dominion that have churned out productive major league players like Justin Verlander. At the time, I thought the league was pretty strong for a non-power conference. Hofstra was going through a rebuilding period during my tenure and struggled to get stellar pitching performances on a consistent basis, but the overall quality of the CAA seemed relatively high. That was until I started seeing Florida-based schools on a consistent basis, as the Dolphins have faced both fellow Atlantic Sun opponents and quality non-conference foes.

In taking on Georgia Southern on Tuesday, JU’s starting lineup featured eight players who carried batting averages of .308 or better and five who compiled on-base percentages greater than .400. Despite the high productivity, the Dolphins entered the contest just fourth in the 11-team A-Sun in runs scored.

That stat epitomized the difference in competition between the two schools for which I’ve worked: the depth of quality teams is deeper in the southern region. Almost a month-and-a- half into the new campaign, the pitching quality in the area also seems to be in greater supply compared to the northern teams I witnessed over the last couple of seasons.

JU’s opponent on Tuesday—Georgia Southern— provided a good case study. The Eagles were one of 10 in the Southern Conference’s 11 teams to have a collective ERA less than five. Three schools in the SoCon are posting sub-4 ERAs. Compare that to another northern conference such as the America East, which has only one out of six teams with an ERA less than 5.38, and it becomes clear how southern-based schools can claim a greater collection of talented players.

Besides pure statistics, an aspect of the game that’s made Florida college baseball exciting has been the atmosphere. Venues like John Session Stadium, complete with lights, grandstands, a back field and even a covered practice facility, make a college game feel more like a minor league contest than an amateur competition.

The simple touches, along with the ability to ditch the gloves, ski caps and thermals in order to enjoy March baseball, has made observing baseball in Jacksonville a better experience. Instead of makeshift ballparks shoehorned into the corner of a campus parking lot, it’s been exciting to see almost 4,500 fans pack Florida State’s Dick Howser Stadium for a non-conference Dolphins-Seminoles matchup in Tallahassee.

A graphics screen at the top of the right-centerfield scoreboard is another understated elements that has separated JU baseball from what I experienced watching college games in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, etc. Radar guns and chair-back seats represent simple upgrades over most Division I baseball facilities.

Amenities aside, the quality of the game is the most important thing. It’s been a joy to see the Dolphins embrace the challenge of facing a Florida State team with MLB draft picks, or to see Adam Brett Walker blast a fastball beyond the 410 mark in center field, which he did again for a two-run shot against Georgia Southern, marking his team-leading sixth home run to propel JU to a 4-2 win.

I’ve already seen a sampling of the quality of weekend starters and the buzz generated in wire-to-wire finishes. It makes me eagerly anticipate the games where a berth in the A-Sun Tournament could be on the line and every pitch counts.