JU vs Morehead State Series Record: First meeting
Hayes vs. Morehead State: 0-0
JU vs Jackson State Series Record: First meeting
Hayes vs. Morehead State: 0-0
Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday vs. Morehead State: Michael Baumann 0-0 (0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Aaron Leasher 0-0 (0.00 ERA)
Saturday vs. Jackson State: Chris Gau 0-0 (0.00 ERA) vs. TBA
Saturday vs. Morehead State: Mark Potter 0-0 (0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Curtis Wilson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jacksonville officially begins the Chris Hayes era on Friday. The Dolphin veteran previously was an assistant head coach from 2013 through 2016 in his second stint with the Dolphins, was an assistant coach from 2003-2008 in his first Division 1 coaching job, and played for the Dolphins from 1992-95. In total, Hayes is entering his 15th year as a member of the Dolphin baseball program.
The Dolphins finished 2016 with a 33-22 record and 14-7 in league play to finish third in the ASUN Conference. JU was especially impressive at home, compiling a 21-7 mark in the friendly confines of John Sessions Stadium. The program lost Austin Hays and JJ Gould to the MLB draft, but returns a bevy of talent both at the plate and on the mound.
Two-time All-ASUN pitcher Michael Baumann returns as the Friday night ace after finishing 2016 with a 4-4 record and a 4.32 ERA. All-ASUN pitcher Nathan Disch (5-4, 3.73 ERA) and Casey Kulina (4-0, 3.71 ERA) also impressed last season, and Chris Gau and Mark Potter will join Baumann in this weekend's series. All-ASUN Relief Pitcher Mike Cassala will again serve as the closer for JU after earning 12 saves in his freshman year. In total JU returns seven pitchers that averaged over six K/9, five of whom held their ERA below 4.00 on the season. JU's staff combined for a league-high five shutouts last year with a league low 3.38 ERA against conference opponents.
All-ASUN shortstop Dakota Julylia and senior Seth DeWitt lead an offense that rocked an ASUN-high 15 home runs against conference opponents last season and led the league in stolen bases with 28 in conference play. DeWitt's .413 OBP leads a group of four Dolphin starters who finished the year with an on-base percentage of .337 or better.
Scouting the Opponents
This is the first time since 2014 that the Dolphins have opened the season with a road series. In 2014, the Dolphins went 1-2 against TCU. JU will face Morehead State at 5 p.m. on Friday, then sandwich in a game against tournament-host Jackson State at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday before facing the Eagles again Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles of Morehead State start their fifth season under Mike McGuire on Friday looking to continue to improve. The last three seasons Morehead State has finished above .500, including 30+ wins in the last two seasons, a first in Eagle history. Eight starters return for the Eagles including preseason All-OVC picks Reid Leonard and Will Schneider. Southpaws Aaron Leasher (5-4, 4.57 ERA) and Curtis Wilson (2-4, 4.85 ERA) are the starters against Jacksonville.
The Tigers of Jackson State finished 34-26, 14-10 SWAC in their 10th season under veteran Omar Johnson, who has 335 wins in his time at Jackson State. The Tigers return several preseason All-SWAC members including senior infielder Cornelius Copeland who led the Tigers and the SWAC in batting average (.422) and hits (79). Other All-SWAC members include first baseman Jesus Santana, who led the conference with 17 homers and had 67 RBIs, and outfielder CJ Newsome, who had 74 hits, 14 doubles, and a .351 batting average. All-SWAC starting pitcher Miguel Yrigoyen led the rotation with nine wins last year in 16 appearances. He had a 4.61 ERA and 98 strikeouts.
- Two New Foes: Jacksonville has never faced Morehead State or Jackson State in its program history.
- Overcoming Expectations: In the 2016 preseason poll JU was picked to finish sixth in the conference. The Dolphins finished third in the ASUN last season, winning five of its seven ASUN series. In the 2016 preseason poll JU was picked to finish tied for fourth place with FGCU. The Dolphins hope to overcome expectations again this season.
- Opening Weekend Success: In 2016 the Dolphins opened up the year 4-0 with a sweep of Mount St. Mary's and a mid-week win at Florida State.
- On-Base Beasts Four of JU's returning regular starters got on-base at a rate of .337 or better, led by senior Seth DeWitt (.413 OBP).
#2 University of Florida visits John Sessions Stadium for the home opener on Tuesday, February 21. The Gators and Dolphins will face off at 6 p.m.