Jacksonville University took a major step toward wrapping up the regular-season Atlantic Sun title when the Dolphins edged North Florida 5-4 in 11 innings on Thursday night at Harmon Stadium on the UNF campus.
Jacksonville (32-21, 15-4 Atlantic Sun) has now clinched a share of the A-Sun regular-season title, leading Stetson by two games with two games remaining after the Hatters lost to Lipscomb 3-2. Stetson owns the tiebreaker over the Dolphins, but one more JU win or Stetson loss will clinch the Dolphins’ first regular-season title since 2006.
With the loss, UNF (32-21, 11-8) was eliminated from title consideration. It was the Ospreys’ fifth consecutive loss, all of which have been by one run.
North Florida outhit the Dolphins 14-8, but JU used eight walks to its advantage as well. Jacksonville scratched out a run in five different innings and never trailed in the game after taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
“That is who we are,” JU coach Chris Hayes said. “None of this has been easy for us this year. But it’s a tough bunch of kids who have earned each other’s respect. They are as resilient a group as I’ve ever seen. Compete every pitch and every at-bat. Don’t stop until the last out is made. That’s kind of the mindset of these guys.”
The Ospreys had a hit in the first nine innings and had a baserunner in every inning except the last, but they stranded 14 runners, including leaving a pair on base in three different innings.
Nathan Koslowski had just one hit for Jacksonville, but he was instrumental in three of the Dolphins’ runs. His ground out in the third produced a run, he laid down a perfect bunt in the ninth inning to bring home a teammate on third and his two-out single in the 11th inning pushed Dakota Julylia into scoring position. Julylia then came home with the winning run when the next batter, Scott Dubrule sent a line shot single to leftfield.
“This team never stops believing in itself. It’s all about the process,” Koslowski said. “You stick with your plan and good things will happen.”
Koslowski leads the Dolphins in hitting at .336. But with a runner on third in the ninth, he was asked to bunt rather than swing the bat. The senior outfielder who played at Episcopal had no problem with the call.
Jacksonville starting pitcher Chris Gau went six innings and while allowing nine hits, he permitted just two runs. JU received solid support from the bullpen, which went the final five innings, allowing five hits but only one run.
The five pitchers combined to strike out 11 batters. Shane Wise, who struck out two of the four batters he faced in the 10th inning, was credited with the win.
North Florida starter Austin Drury went 4 1/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season.
He allowed three hits but issued four walks, which helped the Dolphins score three times. Matt Naylor, the fourth of UNF’s pitchers, took the loss after surrendering the go-ahead run in the 11th.