Baseball hosts Stetson this weekend

April 13, 2006


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After sweeping cross-town rival North Florida to move into first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference last weekend, the JU baseball team will return to conference action as the Dolphins play a three game set against Stetson at Alexander Brest Field. The first game will be played on Friday at 7 p.m. before a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday. All three games will air live on ESPN 1460 with Cole Pepper calling all of the action and former Dolphin coach Rusty Green providing color analysis. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will air 15 minutes before first pitch.

JU vs. Stetson: * JU leads the all-time series, 66-64 * The Dolphins' last win was a 3-2 decision at Melching Field on April 30, 2005. * In the last meeting: The Dolphins fell to Stetson, 4-2, at Melching Field on April 31, 2005. * Last year: Stetson won the season series, 2-1, at Melching Field.

In the latest action: The Seminoles capitalized on costly Dolphin errors in the early innings and senior Gordie Gronkowski's 26-game hitting streak came to an end as JU fell to No. 3 Florida State, 10-1, Wednesday evening at Alexander Brest Field. JU had two errors in the first two innings which helped the Seminoles to an early 5-0 lead. Florida State capitalized on key opportunities despite allowing a season-high 14 runners on base in the contest. Junior LHP Donald Brickle (0-2) was tagged with the loss after allowing seven runs (three earned) on five hits with four walks and a strikeout in 4.1 innings of work. Junior RHP Justin Young and senior LHP Aaron Parvey combined for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Junior Thomas LePage led the Dolphin offense with three hits while also hurling two-thirds of an inning in relief to end the game. For LePage, it was his first collegiate appearance on the mound.

Dolphin notables: The Dolphins are averaging 7.5 runs per game and have scored at least 10 runs in 12 games this season. JU is also outscoring its opponents 145-68 in the first four innings, including a 41-12 advantage in the second inning. JU currently has 279 runs, 27 home runs, 249 RBI and 568 total bases compared to 173 runs, 18 home runs, 144 RBI and 448 total bases for its opponents. 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. Last week, the Dolphins earned their first A-Sun sweep since 2004 (Lipscomb) at North Florida.

Dolphins in the A-Sun: Along with their catapult to the top of the conference standings, the Dolphins also lead several team and individual categories in the A-Sun stats. In the team rankings, JU leads the conference in batting (.310) and pitching (3.37 ERA) while also ranking second in fielding (.965). Offensively, senior Gordie Gronkowski leads the A-Sun in hits (53), is third in total bases (81) and on-base percentage (.470), fourth in runs scored (37) and is fifth in batting average (.381). Junior Pete Clifford leads the conference in doubles (15) and runs scored (41), is third in stolen bases (15) and walks (23), fourth in total bases (79) and tied for fifth in hits (50). Junior Mike McCallister leads the conference in RBI (37) and is fifth in home runs (7). Junior Daniel Murphy is second in RBI (35) and walks (24), tied for third in runs scored (37) and tied for fifth in hits (50). Junior Thomas LePage is tied for fourth in RBI (30). On the mound, senior LHP Matt Dobbins leads the A-Sun with an 8-0 record, is second in ERA (2.02) and innings pitched (71.1) and is tied for third in games started (10). Junior RHP D.J. Ackley is tied for fifth in the conference with 53 strikeouts.

All good things must come to an end: Senior Gordie Gronkowski has served as one of the team captains for the Dolphins in 2006 and is leading by example after setting a career-high 26-game hitting streak. During his streak, which began against Maryland on Feb. 24, he batted .377 (40-106) with eight doubles, four home runs, 23 RBI, 60 total bases, a .566 slugging percentage and .451 on-base percentage. The longest Dolphin hitting streak is held by Talmadge Nunnari, who hit safely in 27 consecutive games during the 1997 season. Gronkowski had his streak snapped on Wednesday against Florida State.

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, Dobbins won eight consecutive games before having his streak snapped with a no-decision against North Florida over the weekend. He currently leads the conference with an 8-0 mark and is second with a 2.02 ERA and 65 innings pitched. During his streak, Dobbins went 8-0 with a 1.46 ERA, 31 strikeouts and a .247 opponent batting average in 55.2 innings of work.

Weekend with Bernie: Freshman Anthony Bernazard was a catalyst for the Dolphins as JU swept North Florida to move into first place in the A-Sun standings. In game one of the series, he finished 2-for-4 as the Dolphins scored six runs in the final two innings to win 8-5. In game two, Bernazard went 2-for-3, including his first collegiate home run, with three RBI a run scored and a sacrifice hit as the Dolphins pounded the Ospreys 19-9. In the finale, he went 1-for-4 in a pitching duel, but his RBI single in the eighth inning gave the Dolphins a 2-1 win to claim the sweep. Since taking over for an injured Logan James at second base, the 5-foot-8, 150 pound Bernazard has batted .348 (8-for-23) with a home run and four RBI in six games.

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 (17) is tied with his previous three seasons (17) and his innings pitched (33.2) 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 1.60 ERA, 17 appearances, 17 strikeouts, 33.2 innings pitched and a .213 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 has the hottest bat of the Dolphin bench. 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 .355 (11-31) with five doubles, eight RBI, a .516 slugging percentage and a .444 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 with 35 RBI, fourth on the squad with a .345 batting average, third with 50 hits and third with four home runs.

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. Lately, Davis has been used in long relief before earning his first save of the season on April 9. Junior RHP D.J. Ackley has found his way back into the starting rotation after a brief stint in the bullpen. 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 nine saves by seven individuals on the year, with senior RHP James Murdock and senior LHP Aaron Parvey each 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 (1.67), appearances (16), innings pitched (32.1) and opponent batting average (.213). Junior RHP 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 0.97 ERA with 13 strikeouts and a .221 opponent batting average in 18.1 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 15 doubles, 41 runs and 16 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 second on the squad with a .364 batting average and nine 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 seven home runs and 37 RBI and is second with .560 slugging percentage.

Logan James starts "Hits for Hospice": Junior Logan James came up with an idea while he slept on the night that his grandfather, Herb Snellen, passed away after a long battle with colon cancer. In an effort to give back to the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida (where his grandfather spent his final weeks) and honor the memory of his biggest fan, James created "Hits for Hospice". Working as a hit-a-thon, he will take donations for every hit during the 2006 season (or take exact donations) and then give all the money collected at the end of the season, back to the Community Hospice.

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.