SATURDAY, MAY 26, 2007
Baseball earns NCAA Regional bid with 7-6 win over No. 3 Belmont in A-Sun Final
May 26, 2007
DELAND, Fla. - Photo Gallery - www.atlanticsun.org
The impossible road came to an end and now the Dolphins will have an extra week to the 2007 season because of it as the JU baseball team earned its second consecutive NCAA Regional bid with a 7-6 win over No. 3 Belmont, Saturday afternoon in the 2007 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship Game presented by Progress Energy at Melching Field.
JU (34-26) won its fourth consecutive game in the tournament, including a two-game sweep over the Bruins in a doubleheader, to win its first A-Sun Tournament title since 2003 when it was the No. 6 seed.
Belmont (34-26) demolished the field with batting average and runs scored during the week and reached the A-Sun final for the first time in program history but could not get past the Dolphins in two chances to clinch its first NCAA Regional bid.
Senior first baseman Ryan McArdle, senior right fielder Mike McCallister, senior left fielder Pete Clifford, junior pitcher Matt Davis, freshman designated hitter Chuck Opachich and freshman pitcher Carson Andrew were each named to the All-Tournament Team. Clifford, who was voted "Player of the Year" prior to the tournament, was named tournament MVP.
"There are no words to explain how I feel right now," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "This team showed tremendous heart after suffering such a gut wrenching loss in the first game of this tournament. We had our backs against the wall the whole way but this team's character showed itself despite the roller coaster season that we have had."
With the contest tied for the fourth time, the Dolphins took the lead for good, 7-6, in the top of the eighth when Opachich laced a two out RBI single to right.
Ferreira drew a walk to lead off the inning and then moved to second on a sacrifice by Lopez. After tagging to third on a fly out to right by senior second baseman Logan James, Opachich hit a 1-2 pitch into right to put the Dolphins back ahead.
Junior Matt Dobbins (3-2) notched the win after allowing only one run on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts in three innings of relief. Dobbins, who also notched a save in the tournament, retired the final eight batters he faced to earn the win.
Senior Justin Young got the no-decision after allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in four innings. Junior Tim Brown also logged two innings of relief while allowing only one run.
"Our pitching staff was our anchor this week and we got some more gutsy performances today," Alexander said. "Matt Dobbins was an All-American last season and has not had the year he wanted due to injuries but he retired the final eight batters against a very potent squad."
Junior shortstop Matt Lopez led the Dolphin offense by finishing 3-for-3 with an RBI while Opachich and McCallister each finished with multiple hits. Clifford and senior third baseman Thomas LePage also added two RBI.
Eric Diaz (1-2) was tagged with the loss after a run on no hits in 0.1 innings of work. Kane Simmons led the Bruins by going 3-for-5 with a double and a home run.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Wison Tucker hit an RBI double to left.
The Dolphins evened the game, 1-1, in the top of the second when Lopez hit an RBI single to right with two outs. With two outs, junior center fielder Kevin Ferreira drew a walk and stole second base. Lopez followed with a sharp single to right to even the contest.
Belmont took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the second when Joey Testa hit an RBI single to right and Packy Elkins drove in a run with a single off the glove of Young.
JU evened the contest, 3-3, in the top of the third when senior third baseman Thomas LePage hit a two-run single with two outs.
With two outs, McArdle reached on a fielding error by Matt Reynolds at third base. Sophomore catcher Brad Simmons drew a walk and then both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Medder. LePage followed with a sharp single back up the middle to clear the bases and even the score.
Belmont reclaimed the lead, 4-3, in the bottom of the third when Kane Simmons hit a solo home run to right field with two outs.
The Dolphins retook the advantage, 5-4, in the top of the sixth when Clifford hit a two-run homer over the right field wall.
McCallister beat out a chopping single to third before Clifford followed with a towering shot over the wall on a 1-1 pitch. For Clifford it was his career-high 14th home run, his third home run of the tournament and his second home run of the day.
Belmont evened the contest, 5-5, in the bottom of the sixth when Elkins hit an RBI single to left with two outs. The Bruins still threatened with the bases loaded and two outs but junior Tim Brown got Derek Wiley to ground into a force at third to end the inning.
JU took a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh when Simmons connected on an RBI single to left center with two outs. With two outs, McArdle hit a double down the left-field line and then scored on Simmons' poke to left center.
The Bruins evened the game again, this time 6-6, in the bottom of the seventh when Daniel Wagner hit an RBI single to left.
The Dolphins will find out their fate in the NCAA Regionals on Monday at 12:15 p.m. for the tournament selection show. Log onto www.judolphins.com to find out the latest news.