WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 2006
Baeball heads to Athens for NCAA Regionals
May 31, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
A brief preview
The JU baseball team was rewarded for its first 40-win season since 1999 and its first-ever Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title with an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals. It is JU's first postseason appearance since 2003 and the Dolphins 11th appearance all time. Jacksonville has an 8-20 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament, with the last win coming on May 26, 2001 (3-0 vs. Bethune-Cookman).
The Dolphins are coming off a disappointing run in the A-Sun Tournament as the Dolphins dropped their final two games. Mike McAllister was named to the all-tournament team after going 9-for-13 at the plate with a home run and four RBI in the three games.
JU's Postseason History
The Dolphins are making their 11th appearance in the NCAA Regionals and their fourth straight in which they are paired up with first-round opponent Florida State (seven of JU's 11 postseason appearances have included the Seminoles). Some other tidbits about JU's NCAA Tournament history:
JU vs. Athens Regional Field
JU earned its fourth A-Sun sweep in 2006 (at North Florida, at Florida Atlantic, at Kennesaw State, at Lipscomb) for the first time since 2001 and have won eight 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 win 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 A-Sun regular season title, 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 (3.87 ERA).
In 2006, the Dolphins have embarrassed the competition on their home fields en route to the second best road record in the nation (17-4), behind only Rice (17-3). The squad is tied for the longest road winning streak, having won six straight. On the road, JU is out hitting (.306-.277) and out pitching its opponents (4.34-6.32) while also outscoring the opposition (187-122) and committing less errors (34-35). Four of the squad's A-Sun sweeps have occurred on the on road (North Florida, Florida Atlantic, Kennesaw State and Lipscomb) and the Dolphins tallied a monumental sweep over South Florida (first time since 1997) at Red McEwen Field.
Dobbins named A-Sun "Pitcher of the Week"
Sophomore Matt Dobbins was named Atlantic Sun Conference "Pitcher of the Week" after leading the Dolphins to their first Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season title with a complete-game one-hitter against Lipscomb last week. Dobbins became the fourth Dolphin to receive A-Sun accolades this season (Justin Young, Aaron Parvey, Gordie Gronkowski) and the second JU pitcher to earn the honor. Against the Bisons, Dobbins allowed only one run and one hit with two walks and three strikeouts while also starting off with a perfect game through five innings. It marked the second consecutive complete game and the fourth consecutive win for Dobbins. 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 won three of his last four starts to become the first Dolphin to win 10 games in a season since Dennis Robinson in 2004.
Dobbins goes national
To go along with his stellar season, Dobbins is finding the national accolades that go along with it. Along with his first A-Sun "Pitcher of the Week" honors, Dobbins is tied in the national rankings with Jake Arrieta (TCU), Barry Enright (Pepperdine), Tim Lincecum (Washington), Eddie Romero (Fresno State) and Alex Wilson (Winthrop) for the most wins (12) and currently owns the best overall record in the nation at 12-0. He is also second in the A-Sun with 110.1 innings pitched and is fourth with a 2.61 ERA. Dobbins, a sociology major, also earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III First Team honors last week after tallying a 3.74 grade point average.
Dobbins also was honored as a semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace Award and was named to the College Baseball Foundation All-America Team.
With starting third baseman Daniel Murphy sitting out the Lipscomb series and the A-Sun Tournament due to injury, junior Thomas LePage stepped in at the hot corner and made some noise in his absence. Against Lipscomb, LePage did his part in leading the Dolphins to their first A-Sun regular-season title and the program's first 40 win season since 1999. LePage batted .462 (6-13) with a home run, six RBI, nine total bases, a .692 slugging percentage and a .462 on-base percentage. In game one, he finished 1-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run homer to lead the squad to an 8-1 win. In game two, he finished 2-for-5 with an RBI to give the Dolphins an 8-1 win. In the finale, LePage went 3-for-4 with two RBI to give the squad a 6-2 win. He also recorded seven assists while not committing a single error in three games.
In the A-Sun Tournament, LePage struggled at the plate, going just 3-for-11 but did not commit an error in the three games. A designated hitter throughout most of the season, LePage is currently fourth on the squad with a .332 batting average.
Murphy chases .400
Junior third baseman Daniel Murphy is tearing the cover off the ball in 2006 by leading the squad with a .394 batting average, 84 hits, 54 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 .492 average (29-59), is second on the team in hits (29), 16 runs, 17 RBI, and five 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.
Who says shortstops can't hit?
Sophomore Matt Lopez is on fire in his last 20 games after a slow start to the 2006 season. In his last 20 games, which included a career-high 13-game hitting streak, Lopez is batting .372 (29-78) with two doubles, 15 runs, 13 RBI and 31 total bases. In A-Sun play, he is batting .382 (47-123) with a team-high 47 hits. 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.
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 21 doubles, 59 runs and 21 stolen bases. He also posted an 11-game hitting streak until having it snapped at Lipscomb.
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. After dipping below .300 on April 14, he has raised his average to .336 after an impressive 9-for-13 performance at the A-Sun Tournament. He currently leads the team lead with 10 home runs and is second with 52 RBI.