WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2009
Baseball uses eighth-inning rally to down UCF, 9-5
There was no “slump” for four Dolphin sophomores as left fielder Chris Connelly’s defense, catcher Alex Swenson and second baseman Jamaal Hawkins’ bats and Chris Kaminski’s arm sparked a seven-run rally for the JU baseball team in a 9-5 win over UCF, Wednesday evening at John Sessions Stadium.
With UCF (7-17) leading 5-2 in the top of the seventh, Connelly gunned down a runner at the plate to end the inning before Kaminski came into the eighth and put the Knights down in order.
Swenson started the seven-run rally in the eighth with a two-run homer to left field to cut the deficit to 5-4. Hawkins gave JU (14-8) the lead for good six batters later with a two-run double to left with two outs. Kaminski came back out in the ninth to seal the deal for the Dolphins and earn his first win of the season.
The victory gave JU its 10th win in its last 14 ballgames and gave the Dolphins their first season sweep over UCF since 1999.
“We showed tremendous drive and effort to come back and take this game,” said JU head coach Terry Alexander. “This is the first game we have rallied to win in the final innings and we are starting to learn that we are never out of a contest. What was more impressive to me as a coach is the fact that we never let up when we got the lead. A one-run margin is never safe in college baseball, especially against a team like UCF.”
After Swenson’s second homer of the year cut the deficit to one, JU got back-to-back singles from freshman shortstop K.C. Clabough and Connelly. With two outs, Hawkins pulled a 0-1 pitch to left field to score both runners and give the Dolphins a 6-5 lead.
Senior designated hitter Jeremy Gillan drew a walk in the next at-bat before junior right fielder Thomas Myers cleared the bases with a double to center field. Junior first baseman Alex Martinez capped off the inning with a single to up the middle to plate Myers for the 9-5 advantage.
The Knights had a lead off walk in the ninth inning and a one-out single by Evan Stobbs, but Kaminski got a game-ending double play to secure the comeback win.
Kaminski (1-0) earned the win after striking out one and allowing a hit in two innings of scoreless relief. Freshman Clay Kollenbaum got the no-decision after allowing four runs on six hits in 5.2 innings. Junior Kyle Kriech surrendered one unearned run on two hits in 1.1 inning of relief to keep JU in the game.
UCF reliever D.J. Hicks (1-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing seven runs on six hits in just 0.2 innings.
Offensively, the Dolphins had everyone in their lineup record at least one hit in the game. Gillan paced the squad by going 3-for-4 with a double while Hawkins went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI. Opachich also finished 2-for-5 in the contest to run his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.
Jake Huxtable led the Knights by going 2-for-4 with a double while Josh Siebenaler led the squad with two RBI.
In the first inning, UCF took a 1-0 lead when Kiko Vazquez hit an RBI ground out to first.
The Knights extended their lead to 4-0 in the second when Arnold hit an RBI single and Siebenaler capped off the inning with a two-run double.
JU cut the margin to 4-1 in the second when Opachich grounded a ball to Siebenaler at second but his force play the bag was too late, allowing Swenson to score.
The Dolphins made it 4-2 in the fifth when Gillan hit an RBI single. Opachich and Hawkins led off the inning with consecutive singles before Gillian followed with hard-chopping single to left field to plate Opachich.
UCF increased the lead to 5-2 in the seventh when Stobbs hit a sacrifice fly to center after Sienbenlaer reached third on a three-base throwing error by the Dolphins. The Knights looked to score another run on Beau Taylor’s base hit to left but Connelly’s throw to the plate started the wheels in motion for JU’s rally.
JU will return to A-Sun action this weekend against USC Upstate beginning on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at John Sessions Stadium. The game can be seen live on ASun.TV by logging onto JUDolphins.com.