SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2014
Russell’s 3-Hit Gem Leads Dolphins Past Florida Gulf Coast
Justin Russell
Justin Russell
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Justin Russell (Jacksonville, Fla.) left little to chance on Sunday. Russell took a perfect game into the eighth inning on the way to a three-hit complete game shutout to lead Jacksonville to a 1-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast at John Sessions Stadium.

Russell performance allowed the Dolphins (12-23; 6-9 A-Sun) to avoid a weekend sweep and moved the team into a tie for sixth in the A-Sun standings.

“I knew I had good stuff in the bullpen before the game. My fastball was really working and I was able to move it around so I had confidence when I first came to the mound today,” said Russell of his approach against the Florida Gulf Coast line-up that racked up 29 hits in the first two games of the series combined.

“They (FGCU) hit the ball hard and my defense did a great job behind me all day. Gibby (Cameron Gibson) in center and (Nate) Ricci in right both ran down some well hit balls in the outfield which helped keep us going today.”

Owning a perfect game thru seven innings, Russell was looking to become the first Jacksonville pitcher to have a nine inning no-hitter since current JU President Tim Cost did so in his collegiate debut on March 25, 1978 vs Akron. the last no-hitter of any kind for JU was by Kenny Kulina vs VCU on May, 7, 1989.  

“I cursed myself there in the eighth when I looked up at the scoreboard and realized what I had going,” said Russell, “If I could have that opportunity back I would.”

Russell easily retired the first batter of the inning on a line out to center field. The Eagles Nick Rivera then spoiled the special moment for the Dolphins by pulling a 2-2 pitch through the hole between third and short. A fielder’s choice and fly out to right closed out the inning, but the game still stood scoreless with JU coming to bat.

“I knew what I had to do,” said Russell. “I just tried to keep us in the game and give our hitters a chance to win the ball game and that’s what they did.”

The chance came in the eighth. Hitless in the series up to that point, Angelo Amendolare (Edgewater, Fla.) led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Cameron Gibson (Conyers, Ga.) moved him over with a sacrifice bunt before Connor Marabell (Jacksonville, Fla.) drew an intentional walk and stole second. Amendolare then came racing home when a pitch from reliever Garrett Anderson bounced away from home plate to give the Dolphins a 1-0 lead.

“I had a pretty rough weekend at the plate, but knew that I just had to keep on fighting,” said Amendolare. “My teammates have stayed behind me every day which gives me confidence knowing I was going to get a chance to make something happen.”

Florida Gulf Coast (24-13; 9-3 A-Sun) looked to final solve Russell in the ninth. Centerfielder Gage Morey led off with a triple to center field. Morey was caught trying to score however when a would-be wild pitch was chased down by catcher Braddock Rowe (Jacksonville, Fla.) and fired back to Russell covering home to nail what would have been the tying run. Rowe also had two hits on the day to lead the Dolphins.

The Eagles added one more hit off Russell before he closed out his first career complete game shutout with the Dolphins and the second by a JU pitcher this season.

“I’ve been playing with JR for a few years now. He is a different beast,” said Amendolare of his former Seminole State teammate. “He is a competitor and I know when he is out there he is going to give us our best shot.”

Jacksonville will travel to Florida State on Tuesday for a 6:00 pm came that can be heard on 92.5 FM and seen on ESPN3. The Dolphins are then back at Sessions Stadium to continue A-Sun play with a series against East Tennessee State that starts on Thursday at 6:30 pm. The JU athletics department will be giving away a free round-trip flight for two people to anywhere in the Continental United States during Friday’s game that starts at 6:30 pm.

Every weekend is a grind no matter how many games you take,” Amendolare said  “You have to play every game hard and expect to win every day.”

The last 1-0 win by the Dolphins was on April 13, 2002 when Bryan Williams had a complete game two-hit shutout in a seven inning game in game one of a double header vs Georgia State. Williams went on to be a 27th round MLB draft pick by the Anaheim Angels that season.