JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After an injury-riddled 12-32 regular season, the Jacksonville University Dolphins upset the top seed in the ASUN tournament to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
JU pounded out a season-high 17 runs in a 17-1 thumping of Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday to advance to the Final Four of the ASUN tournament. Talk about making it happen at the right time.
“Everything we do in the program is built toward being great and May and June,” head coach Chris Hayes said.” You know, it’s from the day they sign, you know, we talk about, this is the time for us to excel, this is a time for us to put it together and our work. Everything we do builds toward these times. And it was really great to see all of them, especially the veteran guys really come up big.”
Among the Dolphins’ 12 regular-season wins were victories over both Florida and Florida State. Did those wins give the team confidence against Gulf Coast?
“I think what it shows is this group has the capability to beat anybody in the country,” Hayes said. “I think it establishes, yeah, we can play with anybody and we can compete at the highest level. We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to get healthy. And we’ve got to have everybody engaged in everybody involved.”
JU’s season began with injuries and COVID tests depleting the roster. Now, things are getting better on the front, and not a minute too soon.
“We have fought a great deal of adversity this year in a lot of different ways. And as all of us as a society has,” Hayes said. “Everybody individually has got their own challenges they’ve gone through this year, our program has suffered right along with that.”
The Dolphins’ first opponent will be Liberty, a team that could earn an at-large birth in the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win the conference’s automatic bid. The game is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at UNF’s Harmon Stadium.
“I love the fact that we’re playing man, we’ve got a fighter’s chance. I mean, it really is more like a puncher’s chance right now,” Hayes said. “I mean, we’ve got we’re one of four left in this in this conference to play for the automatic bid and that’s really what you’re fighting for.”
UNF will face Kennesaw State in the other game on Thursday.