Baseball faces Lipscomb in Nashville this week

May 17, 2006


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After winning their seventh consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference series with a series against Mercer, the JU baseball team will look for their first regular-season conference crown this weekend against Lipscomb at Ken Dugan Field. Games one will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Thursday, before a doubleheader in the series finale on Friday at 2 p.m. EST. The first contest can be heard live on ESPN 1460 with Cole Pepper handling the play-by-play. The final two games of the series can be heard live on To listen, scroll down the the schedule portion on the front page of the website and click on the appropriate game. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will air 15 minutes before first pitch.

A-Sun regular season title watch 2006: JU sits atop the conference standings with an 20-7 (.741) record, ahead of North Florida (20-10 - .667) and Mercer (17-10 - .667). The Dolphins and Mercer have three games remaining in the season while UNF completes its schedule last weekend. For JU to earn their first A-Sun regular-season title, the Dolphins must win one game against Lipscomb this week in Nashville.The Dolphins earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament (UNF is ineligible for postseason play) with a series win against the Bears. The highest seed earned by the Dolphins heading into A-Sun Tournament play was No. 2 during the 1999 season.

JU vs. Lipscomb: * JU leads the all-time series, 6-0 * The Dolphins are 3-0 at Ken Dugan Field. * Current streak: JU has won six straight. * Last year: JU swept the Bisons in a three- game series at Alexander Brest Field.

Dolphins nation wide: * JU is currently receiving votes in two of the four major polls after reaching 35 wins for the first time since 2001 (39). * The Dolphins registered five votes in the the USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll to sit in th 43rd spot in the nation and are still receiving votes from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). * JU is third in the nation with a 15-4 road record. * JU is tied for 13th in the nation with 38 wins * The Dolphins are 18th in the nation with a .717 winning percentage * JU is 41st in the nation with a .0564 Rating Percentage Index (RPI) * Matt Dobbins leads the nation with an 11-0 record and is tied for first with 11 wins

Other notables: JU earned its third A-Sun sweep in 2006 (at North Florida, at Florida Atlantic, at Kennesaw State) for the first time since 2001 and have won seven consecutive conference matchups for the first time since joining the A-Sun in 1998. The Dolphins also 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. JU went 8-1 against teams from the northeast with wins over Ohio State, UConn, Penn State, Wagner and Harvard.

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 (.316) and pitching (3.85 ERA). * Offensively, senior Gordie Gronkowski is tied for third in on-base percentage (.462), fourth in runs scored (51), tied for fourth in hits (78), tied for fifth in walks (28), tied for sixth in batting (.371), seventh in total bases (118), tied for seventh in doubles (16) and 10th in RBI (42). * Junior Daniel Murphy leads the conference in hits (82) and walks (34), is tied for first in runs scored (54), is second in RBI (53) and on-base percentage (.465), tied for sixth in stolen bases. * Junior Pete Clifford is tied for the conference lead in runs scored (54), is third in stolen bases (20) and tied for fourth in doubles (18). * Junior Mike McCallister is tied for fourth in walks (28) and sixth in RBI (46). * On the mound, senior LHP Matt Dobbins leads the A-Sun with an 11-0 record, tied for first in starts (15), is second in innings pitched (101.1), tied for fourth in ERA (2.75), fifth in opponent batting average (.247) and ninth in strikeouts (68). * Senior LHP Aaron Parvey leads the conference in ERA (2.19) and opponent batting average (.222) and is tied for sixth in appearances (25). * Junior RHP D.J. Ackley is tied for eighth in strikeouts (78) and fourth in innings pitched (92.1). * Sophomore RHP Matt Davis is tied for seventh in the conference in saves (four).

Road Warriors: In 2006, the Dolphins have embarrassed the competition on their home fields en route to the third best road record in the nation (15-4). On the road, JU is out hitting (.304-.273) and out pitching its opponents (4.43-6.38) while also outscoring the opposition (156-103) and committing less errors (28- 32). All four of the squad's A-Sun sweeps have occurred on the on road (North Florida, Florida Atlantic, Kennesaw State) and the Dolphins tallied a monumental sweep over South Florida (first time since 1997) at Red McEwen Field.

Dobbins named Academic All-District: Sophomore Matt Dobbins earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III First Team honors after leading the nation with an 11-0 record while also tallying a 3.74 grade point average. Dobbins, a sociology major, will have an opportunity to become only the fifth Dolphin to earn Academic All-America honors when his name is entered on the national ballot on May 16. A position player last season, Dobbins has emerged as the ace of the Dolphins' staff and one of the top pitchers in the nation in 2006. After earning a no-decision against Georgia Southern on Feb. 7, he won eight consecutive games before having his streak snapped with a no-decision against North Florida on April 7. 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. He has currently won his past three starts to become the first Dolphin to win 10 games in a season since Dennis Robinson in 2004. In the nation rankings, Dobbins is tied with Tim Lincecum of Washington for the most wins (11) and currently owns the best overall record in the nation at 11-0.

Dolphins add another signee: JU announced the signing of pitcher Chris Rusler of Hutchinson Community College on Tuesday. Rusler (5-10, 185), a native of Norman, Okla., spent the past two seasons at Hutchison (Kan.) CC where he lead the Dragons to a combined 80-34 record and a spot in the Junior College World Series in 2005. As a sophomore, he finished with a 6-0 record and a 1.62 ERA in seven starts, while also tallying 45 strikeouts and a .193 opponent batting average in 39.0 innings. As a freshman, he went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA while also serving as a utility infielder.

Murphy chases .400: Junior third baseman Daniel Murphy is tearing the cover off the ball in 2006 by leading the squad with a .389 batting average, 82 hits, 53 RBI, 26 multi-hit games and 13 multi-RBI games. He is also leading the Dolphins with a .409 average (47-115) during A-Sun play. In his last 20 games, including a career-high 14-game hitting streak, he leads the team with a .429 average (36-84), 36 hits, 19 runs, 20 RBI, and seven stolen bases. 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.

Lopez dialed in: Sophomore Matt Lopez is on fire in his last 20 games after a slow start to the 2006 season. In his last 20 games, including a career-high 13-game hitting streak, Lopez is batting .378 (31-82) with four doubles, a triple, a home run, 17 runs, 16 RBI and 40 total bases. 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.

Pete back on path: 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 18 doubles, 54 runs and 20 stolen bases. In his recent 10-game hitting streak, he is batting .346 with 18 hits, 10 runs, two doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBI as the squad's lead- off hitter.

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 team lead with nine home runs and is second with 46 RBI.

Gronkowski named "Co-Player of the Week": Senior Gordie Gronkowski was named Atlantic Sun Conference Co-Player of the Week after leading the Dolphins to a three-game sweep over Florida Atlantic last week. Gronkowski becomes the third Dolphin to receive A-Sun accolades this season (Justin Young, Aaron Parvey) and the second JU offensive player selected this year. In the first game, Gronkowski went 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBI, while also reaching base twice due to being hit by a pitch, to lead the Dolphins to a 14-7 win. In the night cap of the doubleheader, he finished 1-for-4 with two walks to help the squad to an 8-7 win. In the finale, he went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, while also being walked four times. For the week, he batted .600 (6-10) with a double, a home run, five RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage. Along with his six hits, he also reached base in 14-of-18 at-bats due to six walks (two intentional) and two hit by pitches to have a .750 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 (25) surpasses his three-year career (17) and his innings pitched (53.1) dwarphs 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 6-1 record, a 2.19 ERA, 25 appearances, 54.1 innings pitched and a .222 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.

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 leading the squad with three saves. 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 work out of the bullpen for the stretch run. Sophomore LHP Matt Dobbins, who leads the rotation with an 9-0 record, has three relief appearances and a save. Freshman RHP Joey Wedner, who sat out a year and a half with elbow surgery, made his first career start on April 30 in his first appearance in a Dolphin uniform.

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 two position players (junior outfielder Justin Young and junior third baseman Thomas LePage). The pen has recorded 13 saves by seven individuals on the year with sophomore RHP Matt Davis leading the squad with three. Leading the bullpen, among pitchers that have not started, is senior LHP Aaron Parvey who has posted team highs in ERA (2.06), appearances (22), innings pitched (48) and opponent batting average (.218). 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 1.39 ERA, 24 strikeouts and a .200 opponent batting average in 32.1 innings.

Sir Thomas LePage: 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 fourth on the team with a .326 batting average and is third with 11 doubles.

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 .360 (18-50) with five doubles, 15 RBI, a .460 slugging percentage and a .439 on-base percentage.

Bernie ball: Freshman Anthony Bernazard was a catalyst for the Dolphins as JU swept North Florida to move into first place in the A-Sun standings on April 9. 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.

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.

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.