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Ospreys go two for three against JU in Rivery City Rumble play

The UNF baseball team opened up A-Sun Conference play with a three-game series against cross-town rival Jacksonville University in the River City Rumble.

Rusty in the first match-up, the Ospreys lost 13-10, the largest score tallied in the series. A five-run streak in the eighth inning by the JU Dolphins led to their victory in the first game at Harmon Stadium.

Senior outfielder Justin Preckajlo had a double and a home run, driving in a team-high of three runs, on top of senior third baseman T.J. Thompson, who hit his team-leading sixth home run of the season in the game, as well, but it wasn’t enough to grasp a win.

The next two games, however, turned out in the Ospreys’ favor, as they won the second game 2-0 and the third 4-3.

“All those games were close games,” said head coach Dusty Rhodes after the second win against JU. “We got beat in that first game, but that was because of one big inning. Both teams are similar, but we got through itFor us to beat them, especially this year at home, was big. It was a good win all the way around for us.” 

During the match at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds downtown March 20, senior Michael Kelly pitched a complete game shutout, as the game lasted only two hours and 14 minutes. He didn’t allow a single run and recorded the Ospreys’ first shutout of the season. The senior walked three batters but relied on solid defense from the team to hold down JU’s scoreless game. 

“[Kelly] wasn’t pitching throws out there today,” Rhodes said about Kelly’s performance during their second match against JU. “He was throwing good strong strikes for the game to be so short.”

Offensively, UNF collected five hits, breaking a streak of 18 consecutive games with eight or more hits.

The Ospreys were the first team to score as they plated a run in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore first baseman Andrew Karmeris led off the inning with a double down the left field line, getting the majority of fans at the stadium energized. Karmeris moved within 90 feet of home with a ground out. 

As sophomore catcher David Eldredge hit a ground ball to first base, the first baseman threw home to try to retire Karmeris, but he slid under the JU catcher’s tag to give UNF a 1-0 lead. 

Junior center fielder Michael Smith gave UNF the extra padding to stay one up against JU, as he smashed a pitch out of the stadium for his second home run of the season, giving UNF a 2-0 lead and sealing the win.

You are going to have these days in baseball where both pitchers throw really great games,” Rhodes said. When that happens, you have to play defense. You have to move runners. That was a big hit that Michael Smith was able to put the extra run up there.”

Home runs seemed to be a trend for the last match against JU after Smith’s homer at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds, when numerous players followed suit in the final JU matchup.

Down against JU at one point in the game, senior right fielder Preston Hale and junior infielder Andrew Hannon each recorded solo home runs for the Ospreys. Hannon’s home run, third for the season, gave UNF the lead in the bottom of the fifth, while Hale’s home run added to their score in the seventh.

UNF will now play a nonconference road game and travel to Daytona and go head-to-head against Bethune-Cookman March 24 at 6 p.m.

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