JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It took 12 innings and a combined 25 hits to decide a victor in the 2017 Mayors' Cup between Jacksonville University (6-8) and crosstown rival North Florida (9-4). The Ospreys escaped with a slim 7-5 advantage Wednesday evening at John Sessions Stadium.
"You see what this game means in how it was played," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "It's one of 56 games for both of us, but it's a really fun game that brings the best out of both teams. It's very competitive, and it just goes to show how hard both teams work."
The Dolphins earned a run each in the second and third innings for an early 3-0 lead. A single up the middle from Connor Stephens plated John Cassala, who led off the inning with a hit into right field in the bottom of the second. With two down in the next frame, it was Mike Cassala who crossed the plate on an Angel Camacho RBI double to left center for a 2-0 Dolphin lead.
The lone blemish on Mark Potter's otherwise terrific outing came in the fourth. North Florida singled twice to lead off the inning, then advanced both runners on a sac bunt. The next Ospreys went down swinging, but Potter walked consecutive Ospreys to put one North Florida runner across. The freshman from Mebourne, Fla., ended the inning with a force out, and JU led 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth.
JU's biggest offensive effort came in the bottom half of the fourth with two outs. Stephens reached base for the second time in the game on a walk, then was driven home on a double by Chris Lehane. Lehane scored on a single by Nathan Koslowski, and Koslowski scored on singles from Scott Dubrule and M. Cassala. The Dolphins put three across in the fourth, and led 5-1 after four innings.
Neither team scored in the fifth, but UNF struck again in the sixth on a leadoff double and a single that ran Potter. Shane Wise relieved the 6'7" freshman and held UNF hitless for the next inning and a half, but JU couldn't capitalize on a few scoring opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings. After seven JU led 5-2.
It looked as if JU would win the game 5-2 in regulation as Tyler Santana relieved Wise for another inning of hitless baseball, but the Ospreys weren't done just yet. With two outs and a runner on third North Florida singled up the middle to pull within two, 5-3, and singled again to put another runner on third with two outs. Then Yahir Gurrola earned his only hit of the night on a game-tying double that bounced off the warning track in left center field. The Dolphins couldn't convert a leadoff single into a game-winning run, and after nine the game was tied at 5-5.
Neither team scored in the first two extra innings, but an error in the top of the 12th allowed UNF to take the lead for the first time. With a runner on second and one out, the North Florida batter hit into what should have been a groundout. But a throwing error allowed the runner to reach safely and advance to second, and the Osprey on second scored on the throw. A single drove across the final Osprey run, and heading into the bottom of the 12th UNF led 7-5.
The Dolphins got a leadoff single from Chris Gau, and Greg Shannahan came in to pinch run with the possibility of throwing in the 13th if the Dolphins could tie the game. But JU couldn't bring Shannahan around, and after 12 innings UNF took the Mayor's Cup home on a 7-5 victory.
"I was really happy with how our guys responded today after coming back from getting home late last night," said Hayes. "They played extremely well, and this was a clean ball game for both teams. Things didn't go exactly the way we wanted towards the end, but you have to give UNF credit. They did a great job of finding the barrel, hitting the ball late in the game, and just getting the job done."