Baseball squares off against North Florida this weekend

April 6, 2006


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After dropping the second game of its season series at No. 4 Florida State on Tuesday, the JU baseball team will return to the conference portion of their schedule as the Dolphins play a three-game set against cross-town rival North Florida this weekend at Harmon Stadium. The first game of the series will be at 7 p.m. before a pair of 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday, in which the winner of the series will solidify the winner of the River City Rumble Old Wooden Barrel. Each contest will air live on ESPN 1460 with Mike Dempsey calling all of the action and former major league pitcher Travis Baptist providing color analysis. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will air 15 minutes before first pitch.

JU vs. North Florida: * JU leads the all-time series, 17-6, but will be facing North Florida for the first time since the Ospreys joined the Division I ranks. * The Ospreys have a two-game winning streak heading into the contest, not including a two- game winning streak at Harmon Stadium. * The Dolphins' last win was an 8-3 decision at Alexander Brest Field on March 2, 2003. * The Dolphins' last win at Harmon Stadium was an 11-5 contest on March 25, 1998. * In the last meeting: The Dolphins fell to North Florida, 8-0, at Alexander Brest Field on March 30, 2005.

In the latest action: Despite using a staff by committee for the second straight time in the series, the Dolphins fell to the No. 4 Seminoles, 4-2, Tuesday evening at Mike Martin Field. JU rallied from a 4-0 deficit despite not having senior Gordie Gronkowski and junior Logan James in the lineup due to injury. Florida State increased its home winning streak to 32 games. Michael Hyde (6-0) earned the win after allowing two runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. Luke Tucker earned his seventh save after hurling a perfect ninth inning. Freshman RHP Tim Brown (2-1) was tagged with the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts in three innings.

Dolphin notables: The Dolphins are averaging 7.5 runs per game and have scored at least 10 runs in 11 games this season. JU is also outscoring its opponents 135- 53 in the first four innings, including a 39-8 advantage in the second inning. JU currently has 249 runs, 21 home runs, 222 RBI and 500 total bases compared to 148 runs, 13 home runs, 124 RBI and 392 total bases for its opponents. The Dolphins (23- 10) are off to their best start since going 25-9 to start the 1999 season. JU is currently 8-1 against teams from the northeast with wins over Ohio State, UConn, Penn State, Wagner and Harvard. The Dolphins have earned season sweeps over South Florida (first time since 1997) and Georgia Southern (for the first time since 1999) to go along with the program's second straight season series win over Belmont. The Dolphins also won their first season series over Gardner-Webb for the first time in program history.

Dolphin starter, M.D.: Sophomore Matt Dobbins, who was a position player last season, has emerged as the ace of the Dolphins' staff in 2006. Ever since a no- decision against Georgia Southern in his first start, Dobbin has won eight consecutive decisions, including a win over Gardner-Webb this past weekend. In game one of a doubleheader against Gardner-Webb, Dobbins held the Bulldogs in check after allowing two unearned runs on six hits through 6.2 innings. He currently leads the conference with an 8-0 mark and 65 innings pitched and is third with a 1.80 ERA. With the win, Dobbins moved into a tie with Steve Guerra of Oklahoma for the most wins in the nation and has the best winning-percentage among all starters in the nation. Since a no-decision on Feb. 7 against Georgia Southern, Dobbins has gone 8-0 with a 1.46 ERA, 31 strikeouts and a .247 opponent batting average in 55.2 innings of work.

Gordie keeps it going: Senior Gordie Gronkowski has served as one of the team captains for the Dolphins in 2006 and is leading by example by sitting in the midst of a career- high 23-game hitting streak heading into this weekend. Last week against Gardner-Webb, he batted .417 (5-12) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. During his streak, which began against Maryland on Feb. 24, he is batting .383 (36-94) with eight doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI, 53 total bases, a .564 slugging percentage and .454 on-base percentage. The longest Dolphin hitting streak is held by Talmadge Nunnari, who hit safely in 27 consecutive games during the 1997 season. He did not play in the contest against Florida State on Tuesday due to an ankle injury.

Give me the lefty: Senior LHP Aaron Parvey has come into his own during the 2006 season. A member of the squad since 2002, Parvey has never appeared in more than 10 games until this season. In fact, his total appearances in 2006 (14) is more than half in career (17) and his innings pitched (29.1) by far surpasses it (15.0). Under the tutelage of Tim Montez, Parvey is the most reliable reliever to come out of the pen by leading all relievers with a 3-1 record, a 1.23 ERA, 14 appearances, 15 strikeouts, 29.1 innings pitched and a .204 opponent batting average. Before a runner stole home against him during the Gardner-Webb series, he had not allowed an earned run in 17.1 innings.

Happy Hudgins: Freshman outfielder/infielder Brian Hudgins took advantage of his opportunities to play against Harvard and now he is the hottest bat in the Dolphin lineup. In his first career start on March 15 against Wagner, Hudgins went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI. After sitting for a week and a half, he got another opportunity on March 25 against Harvard and finished 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI. He was rewarded with his first back-to-back start the next day, and again, he seized the opportunity by going 3- for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. In three games, including two starts against Gardner-Webb, Hudgins finished 4-for-11 (.364) with a double. Overall, he is batting .393 (11-28) with five doubles, eight RBI, a .571 slugging percentage and a .485 on-base percentage.

Dan the man: Junior third baseman Daniel Murphy has picked up where he left off in 2005 and during summer league play, while also providing the Dolphins with a solid glove at the hot corner. Last season, Murphy had a .238 average heading into a three- game series against UCF on March 25 before finishing the year with a team-high .329 after going 72-for- 219 to raise his average over 90 points. Over the summer, Murphy earned Valley Baseball League Most Valuable Player honors with the Luray Wranglers after leading the league with 57 hits, 44 runs scored and 16 doubles. In 2006, he is second on the squad with a .362 batting average and 46 hits and third with four home runs, while also tying for the team lead with 33 RBI.

Lots of faces in the rotation: The Dolphins have found themselves with their best start in five years and a lot has to do with the work of the pitching staff, despite a constant rotation of injuries. JU has used seven players to start on the hill, including freshman relievers Tim Brown and Garrett Dunlap. Senior LHP Donald Brickle missed the first part of the year, but has rejoined the starting rotation, as well as sophomore RHP Matt Davis. Junior RHP D.J. Ackley may move back to the bullpen, where he was originally penciled in as the program's closer, if the rotation holds firm for the remainder of the season. Senior LHP Kyle DeVries, an all-A-Sun selection last season, will also look to work his way back into the rotation for the stretch run. Sophomore LHP Matt Dobbins, who leads the rotation with an 8-0 record, has three relief appearances and a save.

Bullpen run by committee: Also adding to the success of the squad is the blue collar approach of the Dolphin bullpen. The unit has been manned by everyone on the squad, which includes seven starters on the mound and one position player (junior outfielder Justin Young). The pen has recorded seven saves by six individuals on the year, with senior RHP James Murdock leading the squad with two. Leading the bullpen, among pitchers that have not started, is senior LHP Aaron Parvey who has posted team highs in ERA (1.23), appearances (14), innings pitched (29.1) and opponent batting average (.204). Junior Justin Young, normally the starting center fielder, has also become a reliable arm out of the pen. In his first season on the mound, he is 1-2 with a 1.12 ERA with 12 strikeouts and a .207 opponent batting average in nine innings.

Double trouble: Junior Pete Clifford has shaken off a slow start to the 2006 season and is climbing his way up the team batting average category. Clifford began the season batting .185 (5-27) before snapping out of his slump with a career high tying 14-game hitting steak from Feb. 19-March 14, in which he batted .439 (25-57). He is currently leading the squad with 14 doubles, 37 runs and 15 stolen bases.

Thomas tuning up: Junior Thomas LePage started hot in the 2005 season due to the absence of Gordie Gronkowski at first base, but in 2006, he's not going anywhere after another hot start to begin the season. Playing at third base and as a designated hitter, LePage is fourth on the squad with a .333 batting average and seven doubles. He has also set a career-high 13-game hitting streak.

The perfect fit: Junior outfielder Mike McCallister has been a pleasant addition to the Dolphin lineup after transferring from Alabama. A steady defender in right field, McCallister has made the biggest impact at the plate where he is scorching balls across the field. In his breakout performance in a Dolphin uniform, he went 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs and three RBI against Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 12. He currently leads the squad with six home runs and is second with .567 slugging percentage.

Alexander reaches 500: JU head coach Terry Alexander set the the Dolphin program record for career wins (433) with a 7- 4 win over Bethune-Cookman on April 30, 2003 at Alexander Brest Field. He has continued his legendary status with the program by earning his 500th career win with a 10-4 victory over Western Michigan on March 2 at Alexander Brest Field.

Justin Young Named Player of the Week: Junior outfielder Justin Young was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week after leading the Dolphins to a three-game sweep over South Florida on Feb. 20. Young became the first Dolphin to receive A-Sun accolades this season and the first JU field player selected since Donald Brickle won the award on March 22, 2004. In game one of the series at Red McEwen Field, Young went 2-for-3 with a double and made several key plays in center field to give the Dolphins a 4-3 win. In game two, he led an offensive onslaught against preseason All- America honoree Casey Hudspeth by going 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI en route to an 11-6 victory. In the finale, Young had an RBI single and hurled 1.1 innings of relief to lead the Dolphins to an 8-4 win. For the week, he batted .556 (5-9) with a double, a home run, five RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage.

New face on the staff: Tim Montez, an assistant head coach at Fresno State for the past three years, was named pitching coach/recruiting coordinator on July 11. In 14 seasons as an assistant coach at the Division I level, Montez has had 28 pitchers sign professional contracts and has coached, recruited or worked with 12 major league players. Prior to Fresno State, he served as a pitching coach with Arkansas, Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine. During that time, Montez has also been part of programs which have earned five NCAA Post-Season Regional berths (Pepperdine -1, UCSB - 1, Arkansas - 3), including a spot in the Super Regional (Arkansas, 2002).

Dolphins announce early signees: The Dolphins announced the signing of six student-athletes during the early signing period, including local products RHP Carson Andrew and shortstop Chuck Opachich (Jacksonville/Episcopal). The local duo will join RHP Glenn Witkowski (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), shortstop/RHP Matt Gardner (Livermore, Calif.), catcher Alex Swenson (Alexandria, Va.) and RHP Jason Hooper (Lake Mills, Wis.) in 2006. The signees marked the beginning of the first recruiting class under recruiting coordinator/pitching coach Tim Montez. Montez, who joined the Dolphins after a three-year stint with Fresno State, had nine nationally ranked recruiting classes in 12 years as a recruiting coordinator.

Dolphins ready to compete: JU will once again face a tough schedule as the Dolphins will play No. 16 Florida State. JU is also slated to play four other teams which played in last year's NCAA Regionals - Harvard, Ohio State, Florida Atlantic and Stetson. The Dolphins will also square off against perrenial powers USF, Connecticut, Maryland and Penn State. All totaled, the Dolphins will play seven teams from the state of Florida.

Atlantic Sun preseason rankings: The Dolphins are the tied for 5th in the Preseason Atlantic Sun Conference Coaches Poll and 6th in the Media Polls. Florida Atlantic was selected first in both polls while Stetson, North Florida, Gardner-Webb and East Tennessee State rounded out the top five.