Baseball opens A-Sun play at Belmont this weekend

March 15, 2007


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Winners of three in a row and eight of its last nine, the JU baseball team (13-11) will open Atlantic Sun Conference play on the road against Belmont (10-5) at Greer Stadium.
The three-game series will begin on Friday at 4 p.m. EST before continuing and then concluding on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at 2 p.m. EST.
The final two games will be heard live on WZNZ, ESPN-1460 with Barry Milligan calling all of the action and Josh Ellis providing color analysis. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will air 30 minutes before each game.

Clifford named A-Sun POW, again
Senior left fielder Pete Clifford did not start the 2007 season the way he planned but he has bounced back in a major way.
A preseason all-conference 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 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.
Two weeks ago, he batted .650 (13-20), with three doubles, a triple, eight runs, four RBI, 18 total bases, a .900 slugging percentage and a .696 on- base percentage to earn A-Sun "Player of the Week" honors. He successfully raised his batting average from .194 to .382 since Feb. 18.
Last week, he earned consecutive A-Sun POW honors after batting .381 (8-21) with two doubles, two home runs, eight runs, nine RBI, 16 total bases and a .762 slugging percentage to lead the Dolphins to a 5-1 week.
He is the first A-Sun player to earn back-to- back honors since former Dolphin Chad Hauseman accomplished the feat in April of 2003.
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.
Clifford leads the squad with a .389 batting average, 26 hits, 15 runs, seven doubles, a triple, 41 total bases, a .603 slugging percentage, a .475 on- base average and five stolen bases. In the A-Sun, he leads the conference in hits, is second in total bases and tied for second in doubles.

A sight for sore eyes
Junior closer Matt Davis missed the first 23 games of the year after having elbow surgery in the offseason and his presence was missed.
Since taking over the role last season, Davis notched six saves including four in the final month of the season. His biggest was against Sacred Heart to seal JU's lone win in the 2006 NCAA Regionals.
In his absence in 2007, the bullpen has gone by committee and got some good results from senior Justin Young (two saves), sophomore Josh Burrows (one save) and freshman Glenn Witkowski (one save). As a whole, the Dolphins went 3-for-6 in save opportunities and allowed the most runs during the year (21) in the ninth inning.
With the return of Davis, Young can move back into the starting rotation, Burrows is now the jack- of-all trades out of the bullpen and Witkowski will become the set up man.
In his first appearance of the year, Davis notched his first save after closing the ninth inning in an 8-7 win over Bethune-Cookman on March 13.

Making the most of it
Senior first baseman Ryan McArdle thought he had it made in 2006 when he completed two successful years at Tallahassee Community College and transferred to Florida State.
Once he joined the Seminoles, the hard part was trying to get playing time to prove himself. Despite starting only 12 games, McArdle finished with a .279 batting average with 17 hits, two home runs and eight RBI.
After transferring to the open arms of the JU coaching staff in 2007, he is proving he belongs on the Division I stage and has done his part to help replace the big bat of Gordie Gronkowski.
McArdle started things of with a bang by opening the year with with an eight-game hitting streak. During that span, he batted .394 with 13 hits, three doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI.
He came down to early a little with a 1-for- 15 slump which dropped his average to .292 on Feb. 215 but he has come back with avengeance since.
In his last 12 games, McArdle has batted .439 (18-41) with two doubles, two home runs and 17 RBI to raise his average to .360. During that span, he collected career-highs in hits (four) at Georgia Southern on Feb. 25 and RBI (four) against Bethune-Cookman on March 13.
Through 24 games, he leads the Dolphins with five home runs and 30 RBI. He also ranks second on the squad with a .360 average, 32 hits and 52 total bases.

An infusion of youth
Freshman starter Carson Andrew came into the season with the pedigree to be a dominant starter at the Division I level. A standout at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, he has been brought along slowly in 2007 due to recovering from Tommy John surgery.
After a few predetermined outings, Andrew is starting to hit full stride and the results speak for themselves.
In four starts, he leads the staff with a 1-0 record and a 1.67 ERA. In 16.1 innings as a starter, Andrew has 17 strikeouts and only four walks in 16.1 innings. He also is earned a win in one relief appearance at South Alabama.
The other encouraging sign is his increased work with each start. In his first two outings, Andrew went 2.1 and two innings, respectively. In his last two starts, he has made it through six innings each time.

Dolphin Notables
Since March 3, the Dolphins have racked off a season-high five-game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine contests
Senior left fielder Pete Clifford's grand slam against UConn was the first since Mike McCallister accomplished the feat at North Florida on April 8, 2006
Senior Justin Young earned his first win as a starter in game one of a doubleheader against Western Michigan...Senior starter Matt Dobbins could also get back on the hill after missing two starts with a sore back
Junior shortstop Matt Lopez will be out of the lineup indefinitely after suffering a thumb injury against UNC- Greensboro on March 10
Junior outfielder's John Tiner (knee) and Stewart Kelly (achilles) are also out indefinitely.

Picking up where he left off
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.
Through 24 games, McCallister leads the squad with two triples, is second with six doubles and third with a .344 batting average, 31 hits 17 runs, 41 total bases and 19 RBI.
Last season, McCallister led the Dolphins with 10 home runs and was second on the squad with 54 RBI and a .541 slugging percentage.

Child's play
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 pair of injuries to junior shortstop Matt Lopez, Opachich has gotten his chance.
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.
He has now made the move to his natural positron at third base, which allows junior Ben Kerr to move to his natural spot at short in place on Lopez.
In 16 games, Opachich is currently fourth on the squad with a .343 batting average and third with six stolen bases.