JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University baseball (9-5) jumped out to an early lead and held on late to beat Bradley (8-2), 7-5, in game one of the weekend series Friday night at John Sessions Stadium.
"That's a really good baseball team in that other dugout," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "They fought us all the way to the last pitch."
Jacksonville struck first, plating three in the third. John Cassala, making his first start of the season in left field, led off with a single. Ruben Someillan followed up with a base knock, setting up Chris Lehane, who dropped a bunt single down the third base line. The throw from Bradley's pitcher Cole Cook to first sailed high, and Cassala came home to draw first blood for Jacksonville. Scott Dubrule then cleared the bases with a double down the left field line, and JU led 3-0 after three innings.
The Dolphins tacked on one more in the fourth, when Mike Cassala singled to lead off the inning, went to third on his brother John's double and came home to score on an RBI single from Lehane two batters later.
JU made it 6-0 in the sixth, after Mike Cassala again reached to lead off an inning, this time after he was hit by a pitch. A single from Evan Fernandez and a walk by John Cassala loaded the bases, before Someillan hit a sacrifice fly to left.
Chris Gau (2-2) allowed a base-runner to reach second in the first inning, but that was it for the Braves until the seventh. The first two men reached off Gau, and a wild pitch and throwing error on the same play allowed the lead runner to score. With a runner at second, a balk moved him to third before an RBI groundout to second made it 6-2.
Gau came out to start the eighth, after allowing a one-out single, a throwing error on JU put runners at second and third. Andrew Ivelia drove in both on a single to left that brought Bradley back within two, 6-4, and ended Gau's night. The junior right-hander lasted a season-long 7.2, striking out six and allowing just four hits and two runs, one earned.
"Can't say enough about Gau and what he was able to put out there for us tonight," said Hayes. "Pounded the zone early and had all three pitches working for him."
JU got creative in adding an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. A leadoff walk to Someillan, and a stolen base put him in scoring position. Dubrule was hit by a pitch and two batters later, a wild pitch bounced off the backstop. Someillan broke hard for third, taking the base easily, but Dubrule was late heading to second, and got caught in a run down. He stayed alive long enough for Someillan to sneak home under the swipe tag of catcher Keaton Rice, and Dubrule was able to advance to second anyway.
"I got stuck out there, kind of a bad decision, but it ended up working out," said Dubrule. "Ruben with his wheels got home, so it all worked out in the end."
Chris Mauloni, tied for the national lead in saves with five coming into tonight, retired the first two Brave hitters in the ninth before surrendering a solo home run, the first run he has allowed all season. He bounced back and struck out Rice looking to end the game, his 15th K of the season to lock down his sixth save in as many chances.
JU snapped Bradley's win streak at eight, and improved to 8-0 when leading after the sixth inning. The top three in the order were effective as well, going a combined 7-11 with three runs scored, five RBI and an on-base percentage of .667.
"We're just staying consistent with our approach no matter the outcome," said Dubrule. "It's baseball, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad."
Jacksonville returns to the diamond again tomorrow at 6 p.m. and attempts to take the series behind Tyler Santana on the mound. The sophomore makes his fourth start of the season for the Dolphins, and tries to replicate his first start of the season, in which he pitched seven strong innings in a winning effort.
"He just needs to relax and worry about his execution," said Hayes. "Don't be so concerned with the outcome so much as the process."
Tomorrow is Meal Deal Night at John Sessions Stadium, with a burger and a beer just $4. If you cannot make it out, tune in to every pitch on mixlr.com/judolphins.