After a loss to USF on Wednesday, the JU baseball team (17-12, 7-5) will return to A-Sun play on the road against Mercer (22-10, 8-6) at Claude Smith Field beginning on Friday at 6 p.m.
JU leads Mercer in the all-time series, 28-21, but the Bears won the season series last season (2-1) at John Sessions Stadium before winning two more games in the A-Sun Tournament to eliminate the Dolphins.
Mercer is receiving votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Top 30 Poll.
The contests can be followed through live stats by logging on to JUDolphins.com. Be sure to check for other available outlets on game day.
The Dolphins have lost their last three Sunday contests (2-3) to end a series...JU recorded its first mid-week victory (1-6) with a 4-2 win over Georgia Southern on March 29...following a loss, the Dolphins are 8-3...JU has recorded two shutouts on the year, the most since 2008...the Dolphins are 16-6 during weekend play in 2011...JU is 5-1 on the year in doubleheaders...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, including a 0-3 mark in 2011.
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 but has made the transition to third base and serves as the leadoff hitter.
Through 29 games, Ratliff is leading the squad in stolen bases (16) and also ranks second in runs (33), third in hits (42) and fourth in batting average (.342).
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.
Pickin Up Where He Left Off
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 has not suffered a “sophomore slump” in 2011.
Through 29 games, Gulbransen is leading the squad with a .408 batting average, a .529 on-base percentage and 29 walks while ranking second in runs (33), doubles (9), RBI (28), total bases (62) and stolen bases (8).
Gulbransen’s batting average and walks also lead the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Junior Jonathan Murphy prepared to make the move to second base when the 2011 season started but the experiment lasted one game. With injuries and inconsistency marring the position after 25 games, Murphy has moved back and looks like he will stay.
Through 29 games, he is third with a .347 batting average and six stolen bases. He currently leads the squad with two triples and ranks second with 43 hits and 33 runs.
He also became the first Dolphins to tally five hits (5-for-6 at Belmont - 4/2) since Chuck Opachich accomplished the feat against Stetson on April 20, 2007.
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 29 games, Walker leads the squad with seven home runs, 38 RBI, 78 total bases and a .672 slugging percentage.
He is already making his way into the career record books, needing two homers to tie Rick Scheetz (25, 1978-81) for 10th.
Two Familiar Faces Stabilizing Staff
It has been a long two years for junior pitchers Steve Eagerton and Sean Green.
In those two years, the duo has missed a combined 180 games due to injuries and surgery (Eagerton - elbow, Green - shoulder) but 2011 has been a different story.
Green, who’s last appearance was at USF on March 10, 2010, got his first win since 2009 when he hurled two innings of shutout relief at UNC-Wilmington on Feb. 19. He followed that up by hurling 1.2 innings of scoreless relief at No. 8 Florida State on Feb. 22. Thus far in 2011, Green in 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.
Eagerton, who last appeared at FIU on March 23, 2010, got a no-decision in his first start by logging six innings and allowing only one run at UNCW on Feb. 20. Since then, he has won six-straight decisions over Samford, Wagner, USC Upstate, ETSU, Lipscomb and Belmont. He currently leads all starters with a 6-0 record, 46.2 innings pitched and a .242 opponent batting average.