Kevin Cooney is
in his 17th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic University
and 21st overall. Each week, he’ll share some of the highs and lows
of running a college baseball program - one that continues to grow as a national
power. Cooney, who starred as a pitcher before taking Montclair State to a
Division III national title, has guided the Blue Wave to a 226-89 record and four NCAA Regionals the past five years. His 1999 squad won 34 straight games, tying
the NCAA mark set by Texas in 1977.
Feb. 23, 2004
When I was growing up, the country celebrated
our founding father’s birthday on February 22.
Someone had the bright idea to combine Lincoln
and Washington’s birthdays into one big holiday, so Sunday’s date is not as
significant as in the past; unless, of course, you are a descendant of George.
Revisionist historians have dramatically increased the size of that family over
the years, so there will be many who see Sunday as a special day.
I hadn’t looked at Sunday’s date in that context
when I scheduled George Washington University for this weekend.
Hopefully the Colonials won’t receive any special juice for their game against
Last night, we played well and had a close game
until the eighth, when we tacked on four runs to grab a 7-0 lead.
Randy Beam had a great game against a team that
put up good offensive numbers last season and took a very impressive batting
practice. I hated to pull him after eight with a shutout going; I was a pitcher
in a former life. But now that we all monitor pitch counts and try to have good
closers in our pens, that move only makes sense. Ten Ks and no walks, along with
five hits makes for a pretty good night for the big redhead from Sarasota.
Derek Hutton homered in the first to get us off
to a good start. He wound up only a double short of the cycle. Maybe it was the
new stirrups and high pants.
Tim Mascia stayed hot with a 3-for-4 night.
We thought Rusty Brown would be in the lineup,
but he was a late scratch as his ankle got worse after pregame. We did get
Jordan Hafer back from his ankle injury, and Robbie Orton was again behind the
plate. I think we’ll still continue to bring Rob along slowly. It’s a long
Time to get dressed for work; O’Brien will be on
the hill, looking to continue a solid start to the season. Matt will face a good
challenge tonight. GW had four left-handed hitters and three switch hitters in
last night’s lineup, so I think Matt will be facing at least seven left-handed
Baseball is a tough game to figure. Friday
night, we go into the eighth embroiled in a tight 3-0 game, and 24 hours later,
it’s 29-1. Last year, GW won 37 games, its best season ever. Most of its offense
is back, and it returned all but one pitcher. Its starting catcher is out until
March, and there were a few balls that got by the catcher that extended some
innings for us.
In 1999, we had a real good offense and a number
of solid backup players. We called the nonstarters, “the bomb squad,” and
managed to get them a lot of playing time. This year is different. Because of
some injuries, academic casualties and two projected starters choosing at
mid-year not to play this year, we only have four position players on our bench.
One of them is freshman Mike McBryde, who is also a pitcher. Mike threw the
ninth for his first outing last night.
So, normally, the bench is cleared and the dogs
are called off. But we can only sub three guys, and they all start at one time
or another anyway. We just go up and swing the bat, don’t bunt or steal, tag up
and advance only on real deep fly balls, try not to take the extra base. There
are some courtesy things you can do in games like that, but not much else.
If baseball holds true to form, today’s game
will be a close one.
FAU 7, GW 5…
Anyone who’s been around baseball for a while
knew this was going to happen.
The close game was not a case of us coming out
flat, Washington’s Birthday, or underestimating your opponent.
It was a case of GW pitcher Anthony Smith
setting the tone early for his team as he did a great job in his first college
appearance. We kept knocking on the door, but couldn’t deliver a knockout punch.
Meanwhile, his teammates kept battling and
finally grabbed a 4-2 lead in the fifth. But we weren’t done and came right back
and tied it in the bottom half of the fifth.
Then Craig Hughes came out of the pen and
started carving up the GW hitters.
Craig Hughes, who only this morning had learned
that a good friend had tragically died the night before.
Prior to the game, a tearful relief pitcher explained why he was
late. This isn’t the first friend Craig has lost. We talked about how so much of
life makes no sense, and that many people are handed great burdens in their
lives. I reminded him how Christ carried His own cross, fell and got help.
Craig’s help needed to come from the thing he does so well, staring down hitters
with the game on the line. He did that and more for us today. It’s the other
times of his life where he now needs some help.
Dugout Talks and Scouting Reports (2/21/04)
Not a Happy Valentine's Day (2/16/04)
Opening Weekend (2/9/04)
Almost FAMUs (2/2/04)
FAU Living in Land of Hope and Dreams (1/28/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)