After taking three games last week against the MEAC, the JU baseball team (32-18) will end the 2011 regular season on the road beginning with No. 4 Florida (39-13) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The contest can be heard live on 1010XL with Joel Lamp calling all of the action. Fans can check for other outlets to follow the contest by looking for the Game Day release on JUDolphins.com.
JU trails the all-time series against UF, 40-25, including a 12-2 loss at McKethan Stadium last year. The last Dolphin win was an 8-5 contest in Jacksonville on March 26, 2008. JU’s last win at McKethan Stadium was a 6-5 decision on March 6, 2007.
JU is in search of its first 40-win season since going 43-19 in 2006...the Dolphins have two walk-off win in the ninth since April 15 and have rallied to win from an early deficit in 13 games this year...JU has won all four of its conference road matchups in 2011 (FGCU, ETSU, Belmont, Mercer)...against Stetson, JU won its first game against a ranked opponent in 2011 (1-6)...in the series finale, the contest ran two hours and 48 minutes, ending a six game streak of three hour contests for the Dolphins...with the sweep over Campbell, JU swept back-to-back conference weekends for the first time since 2008...following a loss, the Dolphins are 16-3...JU has recorded three shutouts on the year, the most since 2004...the Dolphins are 30-11 in weekend play and 9-2 in doubleheaders on the year...against Samford, JU earned its first season sweep over an opponent in a series longer that three games since B-CU (5-0) in 2004...the Dolphins are 2-8 in their last 10 games against ranked opponents.
A-Sun Tournament Feature
In nine days, the Atlantic Sun will conduct its Baseball Championship from Ken Dugan Field on the campus of Lipscomb University. Here is the conference’s look at the four schools who have already clinched berths to the event:
Seed Scenarios: Clinched No. 1 Seed and Regular-Season Title
Record/A-Sun Record: 39-13 (22-5, Atlantic Sun)
Boyd's World RPI/Warren Nolan RPI: 21/19
Remaining A-Sun Schedule: Home vs Belmont (Thursday, 6:30 pm; Friday, 6:30 pm; Saturday, 1:00pm)
Season in Review: Stetson returned to the top of the A-Sun standings for the first time since 2007 by claiming series victories in each of their first nine conference series. The Hatters opened the season by sweeping Georgia at home and have continued to dominate inside the friendly confines of Melching Field, posting a 26-6 mark at home. Offensively, catcher Nick Rickles leads the team in average, home runs and RBI, but its the pitching staff that deserves much acclaim. Led by Kurt Schluter's 1.40 ERA, the staff ERA of 3.51 currently ranks as the Hatters' second-lowest in 25 years. The Hatters have earned national recognition, ranking in national polls since the middle of March.
Seed Scenarios: No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4
Record/A-Sun Record: 32-18 (18-9, Atlantic Sun)
Boyd's World RPI/Warren Nolan RPI: 53/46
Remaining A-Sun Schedule: Road at Kennesaw State (Thursday, 6:00 pm; Friday, 6:00 pm; Saturday, 1:00pm)
Season in Review: The Dolphins, runners-up a season ago at the A-Sun Championship, have positioned themselves to post its highest regular-season finish since claiming the regular-season crown in 2006. Their talented pair of Wisconsin-bred sophomores, Adam Brett Walker and Dan Gulbransen, have consistently paced the offense. Walker ranks in the top two in the A-Sun in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits and total bases. The potent Dolphin offense ranks fourth in the nation in hits with 573 and fifth in the nation in runs scored, having already tallied 402.
KENNESAW STATE OWLS
Seed Scenarios: No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6
Record/A-Sun Record: 30-21 (16-10, Atlantic Sun)
Boyd's World RPI/Warren Nolan RPI: 97/83
Remaining A-Sun Schedule: Home vs Jacksonville (Thursday, 6:00 pm; Friday, 6:00 pm; Saturday, 1:00pm)
Season in Review: The Owls carry a rich baseball tradition that features NAIA and Division II National Championships and recent first-round draft picks in Chad Jenkins and Kyle Heckathorn. They added to it this year by qualifying for the A-Sun Championship for the first time in program history. All-American catcher Ronnie Freeman opened the season by hitting in 13 straight games extending his hit streak from the end of 2010 to 42 - setting a school record. He and Andy Chriscaden (14 home runs, conference-leading 70 RBI) have paced the offense. The Owls own a pair of marquee non-conference wins, defeating Georgia and Georgia Tech at home.
Seed Scenarios: No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6
Record/A-Sun Record: 34-17 (15-10, Atlantic Sun)
Boyd's World RPI/Warren Nolan RPI: 34/34
Remaining A-Sun Schedule: Road at Mercer (Thursday, 6:00 pm; Friday, 6:00 pm; Saturday, 1:00pm)
Season in Review: The Buccaneers opened the season 11-2 and have found themselves inside the RPI top 40 throughout the season. Reigning Player of the Year Paul Hoilman continued his assault on the A-Sun record book taking over the top spot in home runs, doubles and total bases. His 19 home runs lead the league and the Bucs' 81 long balls leads the nation. Bo Reeder has established himself as one of the nation's top two-way players in the country. Offensively, he leads the club in hits, runs and RBI. On the mound, his 16 saves puts him in a tie for the A-Sun single-season record and in a tie for the national lead.
Health Finally Improved For Dolphins
Injuries are a part of baseball and every team goes through them as the season progresses.
In mid-April, the Dolphins’ fortunes were dealt a big blow with four starters affected. But, recently, some of those players are making their way back into the lineup.
Junior shortstop Jimmy Howick, who had started 28 games, was limited in the field due to an elbow injury (4/6). He was used as a DH and pinch hitter until returning to the lineup at short against Campbell (4/16).
Freshman third baseman Taylor Ratliff, who served as the lead-off hitter, has been limited in the field and at the plate with a right shoulder injury (4/5). He made his way back into the starting lineup at third base in the doubleheader against No. 18 Stetson (4/23).
Junior pitcher Steve Eagerton, who led the A-Sun with a 6-0 record, missed two starts due to a concussion from a come-backer on April 8. He earned a no-decision in his start back at FGCU (4/29) and has made his way back to the weekend rotation.
Senior pitcher Chris Kaminski, the program’s closer the last three years and starter in 2011, was out with a shoulder injury at Belmont (4/1) but made his first appearance on the mound with a shutout inning against Bethune-Cookman (5/10).
Walker, Wisconsin Bomber
Sophomore right fielder/first baseman Adam Brett Walker enjoyed a tremendous freshman campaign, leading the team with 16 home runs, 58 RBI and a .635 slugging percentage and ended with several accolades.
After being named to the A-Sun All-Preseason Team, Walker has not skipped a beat.
Through 44 games, Walker leads the squad with 11 home runs, 84 hits, 19 doubles, 66 RBI, 140 total bases, and a .704 slugging percentage.
He is already making his way into the career record books, surpassing Rick Scheetz (25, 1978-81) for 10th on the all-time home run list. He needs one home runs to move past Ernie Carr for ninth (26, 1985-88). In other categories, Walker needs 12 doubles, 16 RBI, 81 hits and 81 total bases to crack the top 10 all time, respectively.
“Hot Corner” Lehane Has JU On A Roll
Junior Kevin Lehane had a rollercoaster season in 2010 that ended with him missing 41 games with a hamstring injury.
Prior to the bad hammy, Lehane was one of the hotter bats in the JU lineup with a .350 average in 40 at-bats.
Now at full strength, Lehane has established residency at third base and has shored up the left side of the infield - JU is 14-5 in his 19 starts at the “Hot Corner.”
In 49 games, Lehane is second on the squad with a .365 batting average, eight home runs and a.551 slugging percentage. He is also third with nine doubles and fourth with 42 RBI.
The Table Setter
Freshman Taylor Ratliff was a highly touted recruit out of Taylor County High School and thus far in 2011 he has been more than advertised. After turning down offers to Florida State and Florida, Ratliff joined the Dolphins as a shortstop.
He made the transition to third base and started 30 games before he was sidelined by a shoulder injury - missing five games. Now healthy, he has made the move to second base - where he has started the last 11 games.
In 45 games as the team’s leadoff hitter, Ratliff is fourth in batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.425) and doubles (7) while leading the squad with 21 stolen bases.
To highlight his presence at the top of the JU lineup, the Dolphins’ only shutout on the year (a 7-0 loss to Evansville) occurred when Ratliff missed the contest due to illness.
Not Very Gulby Like
Sophomore center fielder Dan Gulbransen enjoyed a tremendous freshman campaign, flirting with a .400 batting average and ended with several accolades.
After being named to the A-Sun All-Preseason Team, Gulbransen was not suffering through a “sophomore slump” through much of 2011 but has hit a rough spot as of late.
Through 40 games, a .416 batting average, 48 runs, 35 walks and a .524 on-base percentage and was in the midst of a 23 game hitting streak.
Since then (his last 10 games), he is .179 (7-39) with one double, two RBI, eight total bases and seven strikeouts - which has lowered his overall batting average to .363.
Walker Added to Golden Spikes Award List
Without even completing his second year in a Dolphin uniform, sophomore Adam Brett Walker is beginning to show up on the national radar in college baseball after being a late addition to the 60-man mid-season nomination list for the Golden Spikes Award.
Since 1978, USA Baseball has honored the top amateur baseball player in the country with the Golden Spikes Award. The award is sponsored by Major League Baseball and presented each year to the player who best exhibits exceptional on-field ability and exemplary sportsmanship.
In 2010, Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, won the prestigious award. Past winners also include Terry Francona (1980), Will Clark (1985), Robin Ventura (1988), Jason Varitek (1994), J.D. Drew (1997), Mark Prior (2001), Jered Weaver (2004), Tim Lincecum (2006), David Price (2007), Buster Posey (2008) and Stephen Strasburg (2009).
A 2011 A-Sun Preseason all-conference selection, Walker was also voted one of the top three “Biggest Power Threats” by conference coaches in CollegeBaseballInsider.com A-Sun Preview.
The Bermuda Triangle
Most people associate the Bermuda Triangle with the disappearance of ships and planes in a certain area of the Western part of the North Atlantic Ocean.
But in 2011, the same can be said for opposing pitchers who face JU in the eighth inning.
Through 50 games, the Dolphins have done their most damage in the eighth inning by scoring 62 of its 402 runs.
As a team in the eighth inning, JU is hitting .362 (79-218) with 15 doubles, two triples, three home runs and a .491 slugging percentage.
In the month of April alone, the Dolphins have won three games due to eighth inning:
Campbell (4/16) - JU trailed 13-7 but nine runs on seven hits and two Camel errors paved the way for a 16-13 win.
#18 Stetson (4/23) - JU and Stetson were even, 4-4, through seven but six runs on six hits and one Hatter error proved to be the difference in a 10-4 win.
FGCU (4/29) - JU trailed 7-5 but five runs on five hits and two Eagles’ errors led to a 10-7 victory.