TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2007
Baseball opens NCAA Regional with #3 North Carolina on Friday at 6 p.m.
May 29, 2007
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
After earning its third Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament title, the JU baseball team (34-26) will compete in its second consecutive NCAA Regional for the first time since 1994-95 as the Dolphins face No. 3 North Carolina (42-12) at Boshamer Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m.
In the first game, No. 2 seed East Carolina (39-21) will face No. 3 seed Western Carolina (40-18) at 2 p.m.
All JU NCAA Regional games can be heard live on WZNZ, AM 1460, with Barry Milligan calling all of the action and Joel Lamp providing color analysis. The Dolphin Pre-Game show will begin 15 minutes before first pitch.
JU in the NCAA's
* The Dolphins have reached the NCAA Regionals in back-to-back seasons for only the second time in program history (1994-95).
* In 12 regional bids, the Dolphins will be playing at their seventh regional site and just its fifth regional outside out the state of Florida. JU has competed in Tallahassee, Fla. for five of its appearances (1976, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2003). The program has also made stops in Fort Eustis, Va. (1968), Gastonia, N.C. (1972), Starkville, Miss. (1989), Gainesville, Fla. (1991), Clemson, S.C. (1995) and Athens, Ga. (2006).
* With 10 seniors, the Dolphins have a combined 42 games of NCAA Regional game experience under their belts with 14 players returning from last year's squad.
* JU sports an 9-22 record all time in postseason play.
* The Dolphins snapped a four-game losing streak in the NCAA Regionals with a 4-3 win over Sacred Heart in Athens last season.
* JU has come within one game of advancing out of the Regionals twice. In 1976, JU eliminated Florida State before falling in the championship game to Auburn. The Dolphins next shot was in 1994, advancing to the finals before falling to Florida State.
JU & UNC connection
The duo made quite the chess team in middle school as they won state championships in North Carolina while both were living in Charlotte.
James, who was born in Louisville, Ky., lived in Charlotte for three years where he and Woodard became inseperable due to their families being long-time friends.
No. 4 seed JU wins A-Sun Tourney
JU earned its first crown in 1999 after losing its opening game to Troy State and then running off four consecutive victories, including a win over Troy State in the finals.
In 2003, the Dolphins became the second No. 6 seed to win the tournament as JU went 4-1 for the week, including back-to-back wins over host Stetson.
This year, JU entered as the No. 4 seed and dropped its first contest to Belmont. The Dolphins ran off four consecutive wins to take the title, including back-to-back wins over Belmont, to become the first champion to defeat the same team twice in the final day.
Five Dolphins named All-Tourney
Senior left fielder Pete Clifford, who was also named tournament MVP, batted .350 (7-20) with three home runs and six RBI.
Senior right fielder Mike McCallister batted .333 (6-18) with three runs, two RBI and made spectacular catches defensively.
Senior first baseman Ryan McArdle batted .348 (8-23) with three doubles and three RBI to extend his career high hitting streak to 10 games.
Junior starter Matt Davis allowed one run on six hits with four strikeouts in eight innings against host Stetson.
Freshman starter Carson Andrew hurled a career-high seven shutout innings while scattering three hits with five strikeouts against Gardner-Webb.
Freshman designated hitter Chuck Opachich batted a team-high .381 (8-21) with five runs and two RBI, including the game-winning RBI the championship game.
Pitching leads the way
The blueprint looked good but the structure and position took some time to present itself as the staff had its ups and downs during the regular season.
Among the letdowns were eight losses while holding the lead in the final two innings.
Everything came to fruition in the A-Sun Tournament as the staff hit its stride.
Through five games, the staff allowed 23 runs (21) unearned for an ERA of 4.30 compared to 5.86 for its opponents.
If you were to excluded the eight-run meltdown by the staff in game one against Belmont, they finished with only 15 runs allowed for an ERA of 3.07.
At one point, the staff allowed only one run in 22 innings of work while the starting rotation chewed up 32.2 innings out of a possible 44.
A Clemens Award Watch nominee and preseason all-conference selection, Dobbins was never able to return to starter status due to a back injury.
With his innings limited, he made the move to the bullpen and has emerged as the squad's closer in the final two weeks of the season.
In nine starts, Dobbins went 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Since moving to the pen, he is 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA, and 16 strikeouts and 22.1 innings in 10 appearances.
He tied for second on the squad with his second save in a win over host Stetson. Dobbins also notched the win in the championship game against Belmont by retiring the final eight batters of the game.
A new level
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.
With the return of Davis, Justin Young moved back into the starting rotation where he has flourished.
Since his return, the fireballer has recorded six saves, including the final two outs to end the Dolphins' 18-game losing streak to Florida State on March 21.
He has now made the move to the starting rotation and the results are even more astounding. In four starts, he is 2-0 with a 3.33 ERA, 20 strikeouts, a .229 opponent batting average and 27 innings pitched.
What is true is the fact that Brown has turned a corner as a pitcher and has become the stopper for the Dolphins out of the bullpen.
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 next five appearances, Brown went 1- 0 with a 0.79 ERA and a save in 11.1 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 24 appearances since Auburn, Brown has now lowered his ERA from 8.59 to 4.80 and is tied for second on the squad with two saves.
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 off 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.
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. 1 Florida State on March 21. The Seminoles had defeated JU in 18 consecutive games prior to the contest.
He is currently third on the squad with a .326 batting average while ranking second with 69 hits, six home runs, 51 RBI, 113 total bases and a .491 slugging percentage.