FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2006
Baseball heads to FAU this weekend
April 28, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
After winning their fourth consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference series last weekend, the JU baseball team will continue conference action as the Dolphins play a three game set against Florida Atlantic at FAU Field this weekend. The series will start with a doubleheader on Saturday at 4 p.m. before the series finale on Sunday at noon.
JU vs. Florida Atlantic: * FAU leads the all-time series, 15-19 * The Dolphins' last win at FAU Field was an 11-5 decision on March 26, 2005. * In the last meeting: The Dolphins defeated the Owls, 8-7, at Alexander Brest Field on April 3, 2005. * Last year: JU won the season series, 2-1, at Alexander Brest Field.
In the latest action: Five unearned runs in the first two innings put JU in a hole they couldn't overcome, dropping the finale of the three-game series to ETSU, 8-7, at Alexander Brest Field on April 23. The Dolphins fell behind early 5-0 and trailed 8-2 going into the bottom of the seventh. JU was able to put up three in the seventh and two in the eighth and for the first time all weekend, the Dolphins weren't able to get the big hit with two outs as Daniel Murphy lined out with the tying run on third base.
Dolphin notables: JU is currently receiving votes in two of the four major polls after reaching 30 wins for the first time since 2003. The Dolphins registered 12 votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll. 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 their first season series over Gardner-Webb in program history. The Dolphins also earned their first A-Sun sweep since 2004 (Lipscomb) at North Florida and have won four consecutive conference matchups for the first time since 1999. 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 161- 79 in the first four innings, including a 47-16 advantage in the second inning. JU currently has 321 runs, 31 home runs, 289 RBI and 664 total bases compared to 213 runs, 22 home runs, 178 RBI and 538 total bases for its opponents.
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 (.311) and pitching (3.63 ERA) while also ranking second in fielding (.962). Offensively, senior Gordie Gronkowski is tied for third in runs scored (40), fifth in on-base percentage (.447), seventh in total bases (92), eighth in hits (60) and 10th in batting average (.361) and slugging percentage (.548). Junior Pete Clifford leads the conference in runs scored (44), is tied for second in walks (27), third in stolen bases (17), fourth in doubles (17) and 10th in slugging percentage (.548). Junior Mike McCallister is fifth in home runs (8) and tied for sixth in RBI (39). Junior Daniel Murphy is tied for first in RBI (43), second in walks (27), fourth in runs scored (40) and sixth in hits (62) and on-base percentage (.444) and seventh in batting average (.363). On the mound, senior LHP Matt Dobbins leads the A-Sun with an 8-0 record, is second in ERA (2.29) and third in innings pitched (82.2), is tied for third in games started (12) and is seventh in opponent batting average (.242). Senior LHP Aaron Parvey leads the conference in ERA (1.88) and opponent batting average (.213) and is eighth in appearances (20). Junior RHP D.J. Ackley is tied for fifth in the conference in strikeouts (66) and innings pitched (74.2).
O-Danny boy: 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 leads the squad with a .363 batting average, 43 RBI, 62 hits, 27 walks, five sacrifice flies and 19 multi-hit games. He is also second on the team with 40 runs, 12 stolen bases, a .444 on-base percentage and 17 multi-RBI games and third with five home runs and 85 total bases.
He can do more than field: Sophomore Matt Lopez is starting to heat up in his last 10 games after a slow start to the 2006 season. In his last 10 games, including a six-game hitting streak, Lopez is leading the squad with a .405 (15-37) average, two doubles, a triple, 10 runs, 22 total bases, a .595 slugging percentage and a .476 on-base percentage. He also leads the squad in crucial situations with seven sacrifice bunts. Last year in his first full season, Lopez earned A-Sun all- freshman honors after finishing second on the squad with a .328 batting average and a .395 on-base percentage.
Parvey named "Pitcher of the Week": Senior LHP Aaron Parvey carried the Dolphins on his back in the most pivotal game of the Stetson series on April 14. In the opener on Friday night, with both clubs attempting to save their bullpens for the Saturday doubleheader, Parvey held the Hatters in check through seven innings of no-hit relief to allow JU to rally for a 4-3 win in 12 innings. The most impressive part of his feat, other than retiring the last 17 batters he faced, is that he had never pitched more than three innings in his entire career. 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 (20) surpasses his three-year career (17) and his innings pitched (43) nearly triples it (15.0). Under the tutelage of Tim Montez, Parvey is the most reliable arm out of the pen as he leads all relievers with a 4-1 record, a 1.88 ERA, 20 appearances, 20 strikeouts, 43 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.
Dobby loves pitching: 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. 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.
Weekends 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 .367 (18- for-49) with two doubles, a home run and 10 RBI and four stolen bases in 12 games.
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, senior LHP Aaron Parvey and sophomore RHP Matt Davis 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 2-2 with a 0.79 ERA with 19 strikeouts and a .213 opponent batting average in 25 innings.
The big red dog? 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 16 doubles, 44 runs and 17 stolen bases.
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 April 12 against Florida State. He currently leads the squad with 92 total bases, a .548 slugging percentage and a .447 on-base percentage, while also ranking second on the team with a .357 batting average, 60 hits, 11 doubles and seven home runs.
Tommy boy: 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 consistently producing from the plate in 2006. Playing at third base and as a designated hitter, LePage is third on the team with a .349 batting average and is tied for third with nine doubles. In his last 10 games, LePage is batting .395 (15-38) with two doubles, nine runs, a home run, 20 total bases, a .526 slugging percentage an a.452 on- base percentage. He has also set a career-high 13- game hitting streak during the year.
Mac power: 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 eight home runs and is second with 39 RBI.
Hudgins fills in: 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 .343 (12-35) with five doubles, nine RBI, a .486 slugging percentage and a .439 on-base 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.