JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This time of year, there are a lot of possible permutations that could find college baseball teams in or out of the NCAA regionals. At Jacksonville University, head coach Chris Hayes isn’t worried about that.
The Dolphins enter the ASUN tournament Wednesday when they face Lipscomb. JU is in line to earn an at-large bid to the regionals. There are no guarantees, shy of winning the conference tournament in earning the automatic bid, so Hayes has taken a very simple approach.
"I'm thinking about Wednesday. I'm thinking about Lipscomb," Hayes said.
Hays describes his team as a bunch of overachievers. He’s focused on a few core principles that have yielded success in his first two years as the head coach of his alma mater: Work hard and prepare yourself.
JU's biggest win this season was an upset of top-ranked Florida on April 17. The following week, the team made the top 25 for the first time in 21 years.
"Every time we get on the field is an opportunity to work our craft and get better and that opportunity was huge for us," Hayes said. "It was great for us to get nationally ranked and to get that kind of recognition. It helps elevate the profile of the program, but ultimately it is just one game. It's part of our resume (and) part of our entire season that we put together and hopefully at the end of the season. Once we get done with this tournament, the NCAA selection committee looks at that and says, 'You know what? They've done a pretty good job this year.'"
As a star for the JU baseball team in the mid-1990s, Hayes said that his fondest memories as a player, as an assistant at JU from 2003-2008 and now as head coach all come from teams winning championships.
"That's what it's all about. It's all about us overachieving as a group," Hayes said. "We expect guys to work extremely hard, to prepare extremely hard and to really just enjoy winning, but really hate losing."
Hayes says that he will treat Wednesday like he would the first game of any conference series.
"We just go about it the same way we've gone about every other game this year," Hayes said.
If they have the same kind of results they've enjoyed this year, they will have more of their season to come in the regionals and perhaps, beyond.
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