Feb. 27, 2007
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
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After finishing 1-2 at the Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala., the JU baseball team (5-7) will travel to Georgia to complete its season series with Georgia Southern (8-6) on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 4 p.m.
Senior left fielder Pete Clifford did not start the 2007 season the way he planned after tearing the cover off the ball during the summer.
A Preseason All-A-Sun selection, Clifford had managed only a .194 batting average (7-for-36) and five RBI in his first nine games this season.
But after an impressive weekend in Mobile, Clifford may have finally found his rhythm again and his past proves that more good things are in store. In three games at the Coca-Cola Classic, he batted .500 (6-12) with a double, a home run and four RBI to raise his average to .271 for the year.
February blues are not uncommon for Clifford after hitting only .185 through seven games as a junior in 2006. The trend didn't stick very long as he rebounded with a 14-game hitting streak to raise his average over 70 points to .357.
Senior right fielder Mike McCallister was a nice addition to the Dolphin lineup in 2006 after spending the first two years of his career at Alabama. Since he returned home, he is proving to be an integral part of the lineup again in 2007 despite a slow start by JU.
Through 12 games, McCallister leads the squad with a .400 batting average, 20 hits, eight runs, two doubles and 26 total bases He is also in the midst of a team-high nine-game hitting streak.
Last season, McCallister led the Dolphins with 10 home runs and was second on the squad with 54 RBI and a .541 slugging percentage.
Junior starter Matt Gardner has been exposed to some early frustration during his first year with the Dolphins. A transfer from Chabot College, Garder spent one season at Fresno State under current Dolphin pitching coach Tim Montez before reconnecting with his former mentor in 2007.
A pitcher and infielder, Gardner has been relegated to strictly pitching duties and has solidified a spot in the weekend rotation with his early success.
Success, unfortunately, has not translated into the win column as Gardner (1-1) has suffered a loss and three no-decisions despite allowing only eight earned runs in 25 innings and handing opponents a .207 batting average.
The hardest to swallow was a seven inning gem in which he allowed only two runs on six hits to USF on Feb. 18. Gardner left with a 5-2 lead only to see the Bulls rally for four runs in the bottom of the eighth en route to a 6-5 win.
In his first collegiate start on Feb. 3, he was tagged with a no-decision against Bethune-Cookman after allowing no runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in five innings of work.
Gardner earned his latest N/D after allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and a career-high eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work against No. 29 Auburn on Feb. 23.
Finding a home
Freshman infielder Chuck Opachich did not exactly know where the future would take him in 2007 as the Dolphins headed into the regular season.
Playing behind senior second baseman Logan James, Opachich was groomed to redshirt and take over the position for the next four years. Due to a injury to junior shortstop Matt Lopez, Opachich got his chance.
Not only did he impress in the series against USF, but the Jacksonville native may not go back to the bench anytime soon.
In his first collegiate at-bat on Feb. 16, Opachich laced an RBI pinch-hit single back up the middle to fuel a late rally by JU. In his first collegiate start on Feb. 17, he finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single. In the series finale, he topped that effort by going 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.
Opachich has since made the move to third base and has planted himself in the No. 2 hole in the lineup.
Senior right fielder Mike McCallister leads the squad with a team-high nine-game hitting streak...senior right fielder Pete Clifford has recorded a hit in four straight games...freshman RHP Glenn Witkowski appears to be settling down after hurling 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief with two strikeouts against South Alabama...junior RHP David Yates also looked sharp over the weekend with two innings of scoreless relief against Michigan State. Yates has not allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings this season.