Baseball takes series from JU in first River City Rumble meeting of season

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The Ospreys have had a rough start to the season, but taking two of three games from their arch rivals over the weekend could be just what the doctor ordered.

Harmon Stadium was the epicenter of baseball in the Jacksonville area beginning Friday night as the University of North Florida (UNF) Ospreys and the Jacksonville University (JU) Dolphins squared off for the first match of a three-game series.

Conference play hadn’t exactly gone the way of either squad entering the weekend, with both teams sporting losing records against ASUN opponents. If there’s one thing to keep in mind with the River City Rumble, though, it’s that the past is thrown to the curb. 

Beating a rival can help turn a season around, something that the Ospreys took to heart on Friday. Pitcher Max McKinley has made headlines all season long, but his performance on the mound was overshadowed by the UNF offense.

UNF catcher Dallen Leach got the Osprey offense going with a home run during the second inning, adding to an existing 1-run lead. (Riley Platt)

The bats came to life early, with a Dallen Leach home run sparking a four-run second inning. Despite taking an early 5-0 lead, it was anything but smooth sailing from there. 

The Dolphins put up two runs in the top of the third, with the Ospreys responding with one of their own in the bottom frame. A 6-3 lead for UNF would evaporate in the sixth inning, though, with the Dolphins smacking a pair of doubles en route to a three-run inning.

Now locked at six runs a piece, the Ospreys had a chance to take matters into their own hands during the bottom of the eighth inning. Solid base running from Justin Holmes got him to third base, scoring the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.

Abraham Sequera made sure the lead would be sufficient, extending it to three runs with a moonshot to right field. Relief pitcher Zach Chappell locked things down, with the Ospreys taking the opener 9-6. Sequera had been waiting on the perfect opportunity throughout the evening and was ready when the moment came.

“They pitched me tough all night,” Sequera said. “I’d say that was probably the best pitch I saw all night.” 

UNF may have spent Friday’s game fighting off a comeback effort, but the tables turned on Saturday as they found themselves trailing by three runs after three innings. An Aidan Sweatt RBI single scored UNF’s first run, making it a two-run deficit, but the Ospreys’ fortunes changed in the sixth inning.

Full-on disaster hit the JU defense, with fielding errors and wild pitches allowing the Ospreys to break through with a four-run inning. This time, pitcher Stephen Halstead closed things out for UNF to pick up their second win of the weekend, clinching a series win. 

UNF’s luck ran out on Sunday, with the Dolphins taking a dominant 12-4 win to close out this season’s first edition of the River City Rumble. While this is a rough way to end the series, the Ospreys have to take a positive mindset away from this.

The Ospreys head to Columbia, S.C. next to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in a one-off game on Tuesday. UNF had a strong showing against this SEC opponent last season, so they will look to come out on top this time around and keep the momentum rolling.


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