JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - No. 4 North Florida survived and advanced past cross-town rival Jacksonville to secure a spot in the 2018 ASUN Conference Baseball Championship Final. The Ospreys defeated the Dolphins 6-2 and will take on No. 1 Stetson on Saturday. North Florida needs to defeat the Hatters twice to claim the title, while Stetson needs one victory to secure the championship.
The River City Rumble lived up to its billing as the Ospreys and Dolphins played another tightly contested contest in the Friday nightcap. It marked the sixth meeting this season between the two sides, including the second in this year's ASUN Championship. Matt Meyer and Ethan Michaelis were thrust into starting roles and both delivered excellent performances to keep their sides in the contest. Michaelis pitched 5.2 innings and struck out five batters to collect his third win of the season. He only allowed one earned run in only his fifth start of the season. Meyer was equally impressive as he pitched 5.0 innings and allowed two runs to take the loss.
After three scoreless innings, the Ospreys broke through first as Tanner Murphy had an RBI groundout to score Chris Berry for the opening run. That lead didn't last long as JU's Sam Armstrong responded with an RBI single to the right side to bring the Dolphins even at 1-1. North Florida got the lead right back in the next half inning as Chris Mathias launched a solo homer to left field to make it a 2-1 Osprey lead. North Florida extended that lead to 3-1 when Murphy had an RBI bloop single over a drawn in infield.
Jacksonville trimmed the deficit to 3-2 when Angel Camacho scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth as the Dolphins looked to get some momentum. Trace Norkus entered the contest and he was able to pick up some key strikeouts to keep the lead intact for North Florida. In the top of the eighth, the Ospreys loaded the bases with senior Blake Voyles stepping up to the plate. The first basemen ripped an 0-2 breaking ball down the left field line into to the corner to clear bases and give the Ospreys some breathing room with a 6-2 lead. Norkus was dealing as he collected his third save of the season, striking out five batters in 3.1 innings of work. He didn't allow a single hit in his outing as Jacksonville was unable to mount any comeback.
The Ospreys are back in the ASUN Championship Final for the first time since 2015, while the Hatters won the title in 2016. Jacksonville dropped to 39-19 with today's score, but holds a Top 25 RPI and a strong strength of schedule, making a strong case to be an at-large selection in Monday's NCAA Baseball Championship Selection Show.
No. 2 Jacksonville vs. No. 4 North Florida Additional Notes
- Blake Voyles pushed his RBI total to 38 after getting three RBI in tonight's elimination game. It only marked his second game this season with three or more RBI.
- Tanner Murphy recorded another multi-RBI game as he finished with two tonight. Murphy had the two game-winning RBI in the first Osprey win of the day against Lipscomb.
- The Dolphins entered today's doubleheader with an RPI ranking of No. 16. They have some excellent wins on their resume, including a victory at No. 1 Florida
- Jacksonville's 39 wins this season is the most for the Dolphins since Jacksonville recorded 43 wins in the 2006 season.
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