JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University (19-16, 5-1 ASUN) prevailed 9-7 Tuesday over Savannah State (10-24, 1-11 MEAC) in an offensive test of wills that featured 28 combined hits and four lead changes. Shane Wise collected his second win of the year, Mike Cassala picked up a team-leading third save, and Zack Smith went 3-for-3 in his first career start to give the Dolphins their seventh-straight victory.
"Anytime you get a midweek game at this point in the season we're going to do what we can to save the pitching staff and give other guys opportunities to get in there," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "I was so happy for Zack tonight. He made the most of his opportunity by going three-for-three with a couple doubles. He was a spark that ignited us to the win. We didn't play as clean as I would've liked, but bottom line when it gets to this time of the year a win is a win."
"Honestly I didn't do anything different," said Smith on getting his first three hits of the year. "It was just another day to be able to come out here and play baseball. Obviously I tried to make the best of it."
In the bottom of the first ASUN Player of the Week Angel Camacho hit his fourth homer of the year, giving JU a 3-0 lead after one. Greg Shannahan looked good in his first start since receiving Tommy John surgery last season. The redshirt sophomore allowed just two runs to score while striking out three in two innings of work, and after two innings JU still held onto the lead, 3-2.
Savannah State took the lead for the first time, 4-3, on three hits in the top of the third, and it would take the Dolphins two innings to bounce back and recapture the lead, 5-4. Smith drew a walk to lead off the inning, and though he was caught stealing, Connor Stephens also drew a walk. The centerfielder was advanced to second by a Dakota Julylia single, and Nathan Koslowski collected his 56th hit on the year to put Julylia just 90 feet from home. Scott Dubrule hit into a fielder's choice but an error allowed Koslowski to reach second as Stephens scored, and Camacho garnered his fourth RBI of the game on the next pitch, scoring Julylia on a single through the left side. After four JU led 5-4.
Savannah State was held scoreless in the fourth, fifth, and sixth inning by the combined efforts of Matt Meyer and Andrew Ciocia, but the Tigers broke the drought in the seventh with a flood of singles. Three hits and a Dolphin error allowed Savannah State to take its second lead of the evening, 6-5, heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the seventh tied the game at 6-all, and Chris Lehane gave JU the lead for good when he scored in a pinch-run opportunity for Smith. An RBI sac bunt from Koslowski and an RBI single from Dubrule gave JU two insurance runs, and after seven JU led 9-6.
Savannah State got a cheap solo homer in the top of the ninth with no outs to briefly make things interesting, but JU held on to win 9-7. The Dolphins will host Lipscomb University (17-14, 3-3 ASUN) in a three-game ASUN series starting on Thursday.
"It's great to get seven wins in a row," said Smith. "We just need to keep it rolling in conference play. We can't treat any game in a different way."