FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007
Dolphins host Kennesaw State this weekend

March 23, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

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After defeating No. 1 Florida State on Wednesday, the JU baseball team (16-13, 1-2) will return to Atlantic Sun Conference play this weekend as the Dolphins host Kennesaw State (14-8, 0-0) at Alexander Brest Field.
Game one of the series will be on Friday at 6:30 p.m. before the conclusion of the series with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The final two contests will be heard live on WZNZ, ESPN 1460, with Joel Lamp calling all of the action in Game one and Joe Block filling in for Game two. Josh Ellis will provide color commentary. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will air 15 minutes prior to first pitch.

A memorable night
Several things occurred with JU's 5-3 win over No. 1 Florida State on March 21.
The Dolphins ended Florida State's 23- game winning streak, which was the second longest in program history. JU snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Seminoles dating back to it's last win (13- 4) on Feb. 23, 2002. The attendance in the game (3,109) set a new program record at Alexander Brest Field, surpassing the previous record of 2,954 on April 19, 1995.
The win also marked the first A-Sun team to defeat a No. 1 ranked team in four opportunities this season. IN previous matchups, Lipscomb lost to No. 1 Vanderbilt 16-7, Belmont lost to No. 1 Vanderbilt 15-7 and Gardner-Webb lost to No. 1 North Carolina 4-2.
North Florida played Florida state on Feb. 27 when the Seminoles were ranked second in the nation. The Ospreys were defeated 16-2.
In random JU trivia, the Dolphins' win was the second largest streak snapped at the expense of the Seminoles. The Dolphins defeated FSU as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1991. In that 7-4 victory at Dick Howser Stadium, JU snapped FSU's 37-game home winning streak in Terry Alexander's first season as head coach with the Dolphins.
The other odd thing to consider is the fact that JU pitching coach Tim Montez is now 8-0 in games against opponents which are ranked No. 1 in the nation. Montez had previously had coaching stints at Fresno State, Arkansas, Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.
The win also gave the Dolphins a victory over Florida and Florida State, in the same year, for the first time since 2002.

Sweet revenge
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 early with a 1-for-15 slump which dropped his average to .292 on Feb. 15 but he has come back with avengeance since.
In his last 10 games, McArdle is batting .395 (15-38) with three doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI to raise his average to .330. 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.
His biggest hit came against his former team as McArdle hit a two-run double to give the Dolphins a 4-2 lead which led to a 5-3 win over No. 1Florida State on March 21. The Seminoles had defeated JU in 18 consecutive games prior to the contest.
Through 29 games, he leads the Dolphins with five home runs and 34 RBI. He also ranks second on the squad with 59 total bases and a .527 slugging percentage.

Closing time
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.
Since his return, the fireballer has recorded four saves in five appearances, including 0.2 innings to end the Dolphins' 18-game losing streak to Florida State on March 21.
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. He earned his second save in as many opportunities by hurling 1.2 innings of relief at Belmont on March 16.
On Tuesday, he got number three after hurling two innings of shutout relief. The next night he helped JU hold onto a 5-3 win over the No. 1 Seminoles.

The Gard-ian
Junior starter Matt Gardner has gone full circle with the Dolphins. A transfer from Chabot College, Gardner 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 had been relegated to strictly pitching duties with a spot in the weekend rotation but things have changed.
After making 10 appearances on the hill with seven starts, Gardner made his first start at shortstop on March 18 due to injuries to juniors Matt Lopez (thumb) and Ben Kerr (quad).
Touted as the Dolphins' best fielder entering the season, Gardner proved the statement to be correct by not committing an error in three starts.
Against Bethune-Cookman, he tallied his first hits of the season by going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored.
With the return of junior Matt Dobbins to the starting rotation, Gardner could be used solely in the field due to his quick chemistry with senior Logan James at second base. Gardner will also be used on the mound when the time is necessary.

Mighty Mike
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.
The key word to describe the Green Cove Springs native this year is "consistency". Through 29 games, he has not recorded a hit in only six contests and has never had his average dip below .300 for the season.
Included is a 10-game hitting streak and a nine-game hitting streak that he is currently on. During his recent streak, he is batting .457 (16-35) with three doubles, two triple, a home run, 12 RBI, 26 total bases, a .743 slugging percentage and a .512 on- base percentage. He has also raised his overall batting average over 30 points (.329-.366) during that time.
Through 29 games, McCallister leads the squad with a .366 average, 41 hits and three triples.
Last season, McCallister led the Dolphins with 10 home runs and was second on the squad with 54 RBI and a .541 slugging percentage.

No, I'm not Matt Davis Sophomore Tim Brown has had an up and down season in 2007 and he even has been mistaken for teammate Matt Davis on occasion.
What is true is the fact that Brown has turned a corner as a pitcher and the Dolphins are benefitting from the results.
After failing to hold a lead against No. 29 Auburn in which he allowed two runs on no hits with two walks in 0.2 innings on Feb. 23, Brown's ERA rose to 8.59 in four appearances. After four more appearances, including a start against Florida, Brown was more effective on the mound but things did not bounce his way as his ERA sat at 7.23 and he was charged with a loss against UNC-Greensboro on March 10.
In his last four appearances, Brown is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA with only two hits allowed and seven strikeouts in nine innings of relief. The biggest appearance being 4.1 shutout innings in which he allowed only one hit and did not walk a batter to earn the win against No. 1 Florida State on March 21.
In eight appearances since Auburn, Brown has now lowered his ERA from 8.59 to 6.06.

The return of Chucky
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 and he has flourished in the field with his cat like reflexes, quickness to the bunt and his strong arm.
In 20 games, Opachich is currently fourth on the squad with a .310 batting average and second with eight stolen bases.

Dolphin Notables
The Dolphins's win over No. 1 Florida State was the JU's first victory over a ranked opponent since a 10-9 decision at No. 18 UCF on March 28, 2005. 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.