DeLand, Fla. - Weather delays and the ASUN Baseball Championship seem to be synonymous, but in the location where Jacksonville last won a conference tournament, the top-seeded Dolphins were able to get off to a good start, defeating the six-seed Lipscomb Bisons 8-2.
Chris Gau, coming off of a strong outing in which he limited North Florida to just two runs almost exactly a week ago, got the ball for the Dolphins and held the Bisons offense to just one big inning; the second. Hunter Hanks lead off with a double to the right center field gap and after Jake Perry was hit by a pitch, Allan Hooker sacrificed them both into scoring position. An RBI single from Jeffrey Crisan and an RBI fielder's choice for Blake Thomas put Lipscomb up 2-0 early.
But Jacksonville was unfazed, and after a strikeout to start the bottom half of the second, rattled off four straight hits. Mike Cassala's single turned into two bases when an error was committed in left by Lee Solomon trying to field the ball, and he came home on Evan Fernandez's RBI single to cut the lead in half. A perfectly executed hit and run by Chris Lehane advanced Fernandez to third, from where he scored moments later on Ruben Someillan's opposite field RBI single to tie it. Two batters later, the king of two strike hitting, Nathan Koslowski, drove in the go-ahead run on 1-2 count to put the Dolphins ahead for good.
After a leadoff single in the fifth for Lipscomb, lightning was spotted in the area, and the game went into a weather delay that ultimately lasted six and a half hours. After heading back to the hotel to eat and relax during the delay, the team showed no signs of lethargy after returning to action just after 7 p.m. Matt Meyer twirled 2.2 of scoreless relief after Gau's day ended during the delay, striking out four and ultimately getting the win. He teamed up with Shane Wise, Tyler Santana and Spencer Stockton to hold Lipscomb scoreless after returning from the delay, and stranded nine Bisons' baserunners.
"Matt Meyer coming in with a runner on first and the top of the lineup, battling through those top three hitters for Lipscomb was a huge lift for us," said Head Coach Chris Hayes.
Jacksonville's bats stayed hot, as the Dolphins piled up five more hits that lead to five insurance runs over the final four innings. Sam Armstrong hit his team high 10th homerun of the season in the fifth, and the Dolphins used three walks and Solomon's second error to tack on three more in the eighth.
"The way the ASUN handled this delay was commendable. You never really expect a game to start at 11 a.m. and end at 8 p.m., but I was really proud of the way the guys came out and competed from the first pitch at 11, and then at the restart at 7 p.m," said Hayes.
The win was the first for JU in the ASUN Baseball Championship since 2014, and the Dolphins will move on to face the loser of #3 Florida Gulf Coast and #4 North Florida tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on mixlr.com/judolphins.