JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The River City Rumble lived up to its reputation Thursday in the first of three games between Jacksonville University (32-21, 15-4 ASUN) and the University of North Florida (32-21, 11-8 ASUN). The Dolphins defeated the Ospreys 5-4 in 11 innings at Harmon Stadium, clinching at least a share of the ASUN Conference Regular Season title.
“These guys are as resilient a group as we’ve ever seen,” said Head Coach Chris Hayes. “We competed every pitch and every at-bat, and that philosophy came through for us tonight. Gau did great and gave us six strong innings, Meyer was great and gave us five big outs. Spencer got some bad luck on some crazy hops but held. The bullpen held strong for us as Tyler closed it out. This was huge for us.”
Starters Chris Gau and Austin Drury held the game scoreless through the first two innings, but JU was able to strike first in the third inning. Chris Lehane led off the inning with a walk, and Ruben Someillan advanced Lehane to second with a single through left side. A sac bunt from Dakota Julylia advanced Lehane and Someillan, and Nathan Koslowski earned his first of two RBIs in the game with a grounder to first base that prevented the play at home. JU led 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third.
UNF responded in kind with one run in the bottom of the inning. The Ospreys led off the inning with a single up the gut, and went to second on a sac bunt in a mirror of Julylia’s play in the top of the inning. The runner stole third and reached home on a single to right center. After three the score was tied 1-1.
JU retook the lead in the top of the fourth. Angel Camacho drew a seven-pitch walk to preserve his 24-game on-base streak, and advanced to third on a double by Sam Armstrong. A one-out grounder by Mike Cassala scored Camacho, and JU led 2-1 mid-way through the fourth. The Ospreys put runners on first and second but couldn’t plate either, and JU held a 2-1 lead after four.
Someillan led off with a single to left, his second hit of the day, but he expired on a fielder’s choice from Julylia. Koslowski joined Julylia on base with a four-pitch walk, running the Osprey starter. Scott Dubrule singled up the middle on the first pitch from UNF reliever Austin Howze, giving JU a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. Alex Merritt homered with two outs to pull UNF within one, 3-2, after five innings.
Gau and Matt Meyer combined to hold UNF scoreless for the next two and two-thirds innings, but two-out hitting again played a big role for the Ospreys. With two outs and runners on the corners Patrick Ervin singled up the middle to tie the game at 3 runs apiece. Spencer Stockton relieved Meyer and forced a fielder’s choice to end the threat, but UNF had tied the game 3-3 after eight.
Lehane reached base to the lead off the ninth when he was beaned by the Osprey pitcher. Lehane stole second, then advanced to third on a Julylia single to right. Koslowski got his second RBI of the day on a sac bunt, giving JU a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
With one out the Ospreys singled over Julylia’s head, then placed runners on the corners with a single to center field. A third single put the tying run across, but Stockton forced a deep flyout and a strike out to end the threat. After nine the game was tied 4-4.
With two outs in the top of the 11th Julylia drew a five-pitch walk, then advanced to second on a single by Koslowski. Dubrule took three pitches in the next at-bat before slamming a single through the left side, scoring Julylia for the final run. Tyler Santana relieved Stockton and got the first clean inning of the game to give JU a 5-4 win.