JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a breakthrough season under first-year Head Coach Chris Hayes, the Jacksonville University baseball team is ready to take the next step in 2018. Coming off of a 36-win year which took the team to the ASUN Championship Game Final, Dolphin baseball returns to John Sessions Stadium this weekend for a big time matchup. The 2017 ASUN Conference Regular Season Champions (0-0) begin the season hosting #22 West Virginia (0-0) in a three-game weekend series, which pits the teams against each other for the second-straight year. The series begins Friday, Feb. 16 at 6:00 p.m., continuing on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 2:00 p.m. The weekend concludes with a Sunday matinee at the ballpark, with first pitch taking place at noon.
Come out to John Sessions Stadium on opening day for the first of many $1 Fridays at the ballpark. Admission, as well as select concessions items can be purchased for just a buck. Those who attend Saturday's game will have a chance to take home an exclusive JU Baseball schedule poster. Every Sunday is kid's day at the park, where all children 18 & under receive free admission.
JU vs West Virginia: 1-2
JU vs West Virginia at JU: 0-0
JU vs West Virginia at WVU: 1-2
Opening Day Record: 32-26-3
Probable Starting Pitchers (2017 Statistics)
Friday: RHP Chris Gau (2-4, 3.96 ERA) vs. RHP BJ Myers (5-5, 4.52 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Tyler Santana (4-2, 2.61 ERA) vs. RHP Alek Manoah (1-1, 3.07 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Mike Cassala (0-4, 5.61 ERA) vs. TBA
- The Dolphins return 25 letter winners from last season, after losing just six players from their 2017 roster. This includes seven starters, 15 position players, 10 pitchers, and seven players who received ASUN Conference postseason honors.
- After spending 11 years as a JU assistant during two different stints, former Dolphin standout Chris Hayes made a bold statement in his first season as the team's skipper. The 2017 ASUN Coach of the Year, Hayes posted the second-best record for a first-year head in school history, second only to the great Terry Alexander.
- Junior first baseman Angel Camacho received his first career preseason honor this spring, being named to the 2018 preseason All-ASUN Team. A two-time ASUN Player of the Week and a member of the ASUN All-Academic Team last season, Camacho played in 50 games as a sophomore, starting 47 at either 1B or DH. He hit .299 last year and put up a .985 fielding percentage.
- Despite losing former ASUN Pitcher of the Year Michael Baumann to the 2017 MLB Draft, the Dolphin pitching staff is ripe with experienced arms and rich with depth. Junior Chris Gau, who will start off 2018 for the team on the mound, will be in the weekend rotation for the second straight season, starting 13 games a year ago. Gau will be joined this weekend by sophomore Tyler Santana, who made 27 appearances out of the bullpen last year, and Mike Cassala, who transitioned into a starter last season.
- The team is excited to have catcher Franco Guardascione back behind the plate, after the redshirt-senior went down early last season with an injury. Along with award-winning first baseman Camacho, the 'Phins will have plenty of bodies in the infield who know the Dolphin way. Scott Dubrule appeared in all but one game last season, starting 56 contests. Senior Sam Armstrong steadied the club with 10 home runs last season, and contributed 41 RBI. Standout shortstop Dakota Julylia and super-utility Evan Fernandez will be active all around the diamond this season.
- JU returns two starters to the outfield this season in Ruben Someillan and Chris Lehane. Right field will be shared by freshman Duncan Hunter and Marshall transfer Cory Garrastazu, who both bring talent and arm strength to the grass.
- The 2018 Dolphin coaching staff combines Jacksonville legends with fresh faces. Along with Hayes, former JU All-American Mark Guerra returns to tend to the pitching staff. Former Creighton assistant Rich Wallace and two-time National Champion Scott Wingo join the staff with hopes of taking the team to an NCAA Regional.
Scouting West Virginia
West Virginia begins 2018 off a 36-26 season, which saw them advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. The Mountaineers finished last year ranked No. 20 in the NCAA RPI, one of five Big 12 teams in the top 25. Junior P/OF Braden Zarbinsky returns after being named to the NBCWA All-America Third Team in 2017, the school's 17th All-America selection. The team was picked fifth in the Preseason Big 12 poll for the second straight year, despite having finished in the top four in three of its first five seasons in the league. WVU returns 24 players from last season, including 12 who earned All-Big 12 Team honors.