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.
March 26, 2004
Bye Bye Buckeyes...Hello
Tuesday and Wednesday we managed to
beat Ohio State 6-4 and 7-6. It was a great midweek matchup of two good teams. I
think Ohio State will be real solid once they get outside on a consistent basis.
Their defense is real athletic and they have excellent team speed. We saw three
of their top pitchers and a bunch of left-handed relief pitchers. Coach Todd
really has the chance to get some good late game matchups with all those
lefties. They also have a potential first round pick who should be ready to
pitch soon. I think they’ll be a solid tournament team with that pitching and
We got a solid effort from Jason
Costello in his second start of the season. He kept the OSU hitters off stride
while striking out six over five innings. I think he hit a wall in the seventh
so we went to Allen Knight.
We had scored three runs thanks to
the bottom of the order getting on base and Horst and Mascia driving those guys
home. There were 29 mph winds blowing out to right, and Jeff Fiorentino
capitalized with a high fly ball that just kept going higher and higher. You
could almost see a little wind icon puffing it along until it reached our
bullpen and we led 4-2.
An unearned run in the eighth
tightened things up, but Tim Mascia came through again with a two-run, bases
loaded single for our final margin of victory.
Wednesday night brought Will Mann to
the mound looking to get off to a better start than he did last Wednesday
against Rutgers. Will did just that as he held Ohio State scoreless until a
sixth inning defensive debacle led to five runs and Will’s exit. He deserved
We scored seven runs in the fourth
inning. The curious thing at that point was that starting pitcher Josh Newman
recorded all his outs of the game via strikeouts. We k’d nine times in the first
three innings. His streak would have ended in the fourth, but they misplayed a
sacrifice bunt and dropped two popups. I don’t recall ever seeing someone give
up seven runs through three plus and strike out every hitter he retired. It’s
just another reason for rampant alcoholism among baseball coaches!
Chris Saxton relieved Will Mann and
did a solid job over the last three innings to record his sixth save of the
year. We didn’t want to go that long with Saxy, but he had thrown only sixteen
pitches heading into the ninth.
The ninth got a little exciting as
Oho State got two quick singles. I went to the mound to be sure we were all
clear on our defense with the tying run on first base. We had played so poorly,
it looked like everyone was apprehensive.
I told our kids I didn’t think they’d
sacrifice to tie the game. That’s the old school philosophy of not playing to
tie on the road. But this is college and you never know. I was going over our
options when the home plate ump came out and said to break it up and get going.
I told him I wasn’t making a pitching change or stalling for time; heck, I
wanted that game to end as quickly as possible.
He told me again to get going and
now, one of my pet peeves kicked into overdrive. Where the heck did anyone have
to go? The game was less than three hours old, thanks to our nine k’s, Ohio
State is spending the night, and we live here! What is the problem with taking
an extra minute or two and be sure your kids are straight on the plan at hand?
Man, I hate that!
As we walked away from the mound, the
ump and I continued our discussion. All he would say is “We’ve got to go.” I
still don’t know where, but as I demonstratively looked at my watch, he warned
me, in the unmistakable tone that my Mom used to use on me to signal that she’d
had enough of my wise-ass mouth, “Don’t show me up!” I figured a bee line to the
dugout was good strategy at that point.
Saxton survived a fielder’s choice at
second, a run-scoring single, and a heart-stopping fly ball to the warning track
in right. Remember last night’s wind? Chris went to 2-2 on the next hitter who
challenged my blood pressure by fouling off about a hundred pitches. The 101st
was a fastball for strike three. Now we can go home!
Tonight starts the Florida Death
March. We face all three state rivals in consecutive conference weekends. Whose
idea is this?
Jacksonville has become a big rival
for us. We always have hard fought games and I expect this weekend to be the
FAU, Stetson, and UCF have gotten off
to better starts and received more media attention. It seems that each year the
JU guys start slowly and really begin to turn it on at this point of the season.
We are changing our rotation this
weekend. Mike Crotta will star Friday night, followed by Randy Beam and then
Matt O’Brien. At first blush it looks crazy, and hey, maybe it is. But we think
that O”Brien followed by Crotta over a doubleheader day is too many innings of
similar pitchers. Both guys are big right-handers who throw hard with a good
change of pace. By inserting Beam and his left-handed, softer offerings, the
opposing hitters have less chance to dial in on the same velocity.
Why Crotta first? O’Brien is having a
great year and is a senior. Good question. I have an answer, which is only
correct if we win. “Sic Semper Coaches!” My apologies to John Wilkes Booth.
It has to do with using a good
bullpen in the first game and lessening the temptation to keep Beam in for eight
or nine innings each start. I’m not sure I understand it, so that’s all I have
to say. KC
PS There is a great preview of both
series on Southeasternbaseball.com. It’s written by some guy whose screen name
is Longball U. It’s on the Southeastern Forum. You should check it out. I don’t
know where this guy lives or what games he actually sees, but he’s got his
finger on the pulse of A-Sun Baseball. He also is a talented writer. Some of his
earlier stuff was hilarious. Check it out.
A Festive Week Ends in a Wreck (3/22/04)
Break No Day at the Beach (3/16/04)
Baseball is Boring? What are They Smoking? (3/9/04)
Hanging with LaRussa was in the Cards (3/6/04)
Winds of Change (3/1/04)
Washington's Birthday (2/23/04)
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)