JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University (4-1) improved to 2-0 at home on Mike Cassala's first save of the season in a game that featured 17 hits and six errors combined. The Dolphins defeated the Georgia State Panthers (3-1) 9-8 Friday night in John Sessions Stadium.
"Weird game overall," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "We swung the bat exceptionally well early and then didn't have a whole lot of production in the later innings. This is one of those 'win ugly' games. You don't necessarily expect to see that when Michael Baumann takes the rubber on a Friday night, but bottom line this was a win."
Neither team scored in the first after Baumann earned two strikeouts and Georgia State's Bryce Conley forced two groundouts and a line out.
A walk from Baumann put a Panther on first with no outs, and a two-run dinger three batters into the inning put Georgia State up 2-0 in the top of the second. The veteran dug in and limited the damage to just two runs with two fly-outs.
The Dolphins returned the favor in the bottom of the inning on a bunt by Cassala. The catcher hit into a fielder's choice that drove Sam Armstrong and Angel Camacho home after the pitcher overthrew the third baseman as Camacho was sprinting towards third. After two the score was tied 2-2.
The long ball again bit Baumann in the third as a Panther smacked one about 15 feet over the left field wall to bring himself home, but the senior from Mahtomedi, Minn., ended the threat with his fourth strikeout of the evening. JU got Connor Stephens on base on a walk, but stranded him. After three Georgia State led 3-2.
Another deep hit drove the Panthers' fourth run of the game across in the fourth inning. A double to left drove on the Georgia State runner on second, and Baumann used two fly-outs to stop the scoring. Heading into the bottom of the fourth the Panthers led 4-2.
Things began to unravel for the Panthers defensively in the bottom of the fourth. Armstrong led off the inning with a five-pitch walk, then was advanced to second by a Cassala single and to third by a Chris Gau single. Mike's twin John Cassala then hit into a fielder's choice that got Gau out at second, but Mike Cassala advanced to third and Armstrong scored. In Scott Dubrule's at-bat John Cassala stole second, then Dubrule was walked to load the bases with just one out. Nathan Koslowski singled to right field to put both Cassalas across and Dubrule on third, and Dubrule came home on a single by Dakota Julylia. A wild pitch put Julylia in scoring position, and a double by Stephens plated both Koslowski and Julylia before Stephens was put out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Camacho popped out to end the inning, but JU put six across on five hits and two walks. After four JU led 8-4.
Nathan Disch replaced Baumann in the top of the fifth, and struggled a bit to start with a walk, a wild pitch, and an RBI single in the first three batters he faced. The senior from Appleton, Wis., struck out the next batter, then allowed another RBI single and a walk before ending the inning with a groundout to second. With the bottom of the fifth coming up JU still led, but it was within two, 8-6.
Bryce Henry was replaced by Liam Henry in the fifth, and with good reason. The pitcher sat down all three Dolphin batters to keep Georgia State within two, but Disch stayed toe-to-toe with Henry by snagging his second and third strikeouts of the game. After five JU led 8-6.
An error and three more walks got Dubrule across thanks to some skilled small ball play by the Dolphins, but Armstrong struck out with the bases loaded and two outs to strand three. After six JU led by three, 9-6.
Neither team scored in the seventh, but in the eighth Georgia State scored twice thanks to a single, a double, and a fielding error. The Dolphins went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, and Mike Cassala was sent out to earn his first save of the year after catching the first eight innings.
"I actually prefer it because I've been throwing the whole game and not just sitting in the dugout letting time pass," said Cassala. "I'm loose the whole game, I've seen every hitter, and I know what to throw at each guy, so I actually think it's better."
With runners on first and third with two outs, it looked as if the game might go to extras. Then the Panthers tried to steal second, and Cassala and Dubrule caught the Georgia State player in a rundown. The runner on third came off the bag with Cassala and Dubrule focused on the first base runner, and Dubrule threw the ball to third to get the final out of the game. Final score: JU 9, Georgia State 8