TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2007
Baseball opens A-Sun Tournament on Wednesday

May 22, 2007

DELAND, Fla. -

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On the heels of its second consecutive A- Sun series win, the JU baseball team (30-25, 15-12) will look for its second consecutive NCAA Regional bid as the Dolphins play No. 3 Belmont (31-24, 16-11) at 3 p.m., in the first round of the 2007 Atlantic Sun Championship presented by Progress Energy at Melching Field.

In the first game of the tournament, No. 2 Mercer will face No. 5 Gardner-Webb at 11 a.m., while No. 1 Stetson plays host to No. 6 Lipscomb at 7 p.m.

All A-Sun Championship games can be heard live on WZNZ, AM 1460, with Barry Milligan calling all of the action and Josh Ellis providing color analysis. The Dolphin Pre-Game show will begin 15 minutes before first pitch. The games will also be available through video streaming on the official website of the A-Sun Championship: www.atlanticsun.org/baseball/baseballchampionship. asp.

Dolphins earn A-Sun bid
For the seventh time in nine seasons, JU has earned a bid to the A-Sun postseason tournament under head coach Terry Alexander.

The Dolphins clinched a spot in the 2007 A-Sun Championship presented by Progress Energy after completing a sweep over ETSU with an 8-3 win on May 13.

Last season, the Dolphins earned their first A-Sun regular-season crown and an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals.

The last time JU won the A-Sun Tournament was in 2003 as the No. 6 seed.

Three Dolphins named all-conference
Senior left fielder Pete Clifford kept things in the family by earning Atlantic Sun Conference "Player of the Year" accolades and junior pitcher Matt Gardner earned second team honors, while freshmen third baseman Chuck Opachich was named to the all-freshman team.

Clifford, who also earned first team honors for the second consecutive season, continued JU's tradition of producing the top player in the conference after Daniel Murphy received the honor last season. He also becomes the third Dolphin to receive the accolade after Chad Hauseman earned the honor in 2003.

Clifford, who leads the squad in 13 offensive categories, is leading the A-Sun in RBI (53), total bases (127) and walks (39). He is also second in home runs (11), slugging percentage (.626) and third in batting average (.360) and on-base percentage (.465).

Gardner earns his first conference honors after transferring from Chabot Junior College this season. He spent the majority of the season in the starting rotation with six appearances out of the bullpen along with five starts at shortstop due to injuries. Gardner ranks third in the conference with a 3.14 ERA, while also leading the Dolphins with six wins, 13 starts, 83.0 innings pitched and a .244 opponent batting average. He notched his first career shutout with a 5-0 decision over Mercer on March 31 while also tallying two saves in two chances.

Opachich was a catalyst at the plate after being inserted into the lineup due to injuries in the infield. In only 46 games, he finished second on the squad with a .330 batting average, a .394 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases. Opachich also ranked third with 61 hits and 11 doubles.

Dolphin Notables
With a win over Lipscomb on May 19, the Dolphins reached the 30-win plateau under head coach Terry Alexander for the 12th time. JU has also reached the postseason for the 14th time under Alexander (A-Sun - 7; Sun Belt - 7). JU will be in search of its eighth NCAA Regional appearance under Alexander. Senior first baseman Ryan McArdle broke out of a recent slump by going 5-for-10 with two doubles against Lipscomb over the weekend. The Dolphin pitching staff combined for a 2.67 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 27 innings against Lipscomb. The Dolphins ended the 2007 season with two consecutive series wins and were not swept in conference competition for the second consecutive season. Junior Matt Dobbins notched his first win (May 18) since a 6-2 decision over Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 4. JU is 2-2 in extra inning contests and gave the club its most extra frames since 1997. Junior outfielder Stewart Kelly (achilles) is out indefinitely.