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 27, 2004
Live by the Sword, Die by the
How many teams over the years have come to our park and
been victimized by our home runs over the right field fence? We are about four
miles from the beach, and the prevailing winds are generally blowing toward the
right-field foul pole. Last night, we were the victims of three balls flying out
in that direction.
But don't think that was the only problem. What about
Jacksonville’s Dennis Robinson? That guy owns us. There is no other way to
describe it. Last year, he beat us twice, and last night, he threw a gem. Each
time he had to make big pitches or a clutch pick off, he got the job done. We
had our chances throughout to break things open, but each time Robinson was up
to the challenge.
Our bullpen, an asset to this point, was a disappointment
last night. Our starter, Mike Crotta, is on a learning curve. After a dominating
start, he let an ugly inning carry over to the next. In the fifth, JU had
consecutive bunt singles followed by a bouncing ball up the middle and an error
in the outfield and a sac fly. All of a sudden, we were down three instead of
I wish I had changed pitchers after that inning, but I felt
that little of the previous inning was Mike's fault and he needed to go back out
for the sixth. Most of that decision was with an eye toward the development of a
freshman with a bright future. But Mike's demeanor on the mound had changed, and
I could sense we might be in trouble. Alex Jamieson hit a leadoff home run into
the net in front of the scoreboard, and I was making that long walk to the
mound. Mike and I talked after the game, and I know he'll take something out of
We battled back in the bottom of the sixth as Alex Fonseca
doubled in two runs and Rob Widlansky knocked in another and cut the lead to
two. But Robinson again held serve as he got Derek Hutton to fly out and end our
From that point on, it was a bullpen meltdown - exactly
what we didn't need with a tough pitcher smelling a win.
Today's doubleheader is a must for us. We've got our two
best pitchers ready to go against a team that has been decimated by injuries.
Terry Alexander has spent more time reading MRI's of his pitchers than their
stats. I thought we were having a rough year.
Our hitters need to come out early and set the tone; if
they don't, we play into the Dolphins' hands.
Well, our hitters did come out ready to play, scoring three
in the second inning to stake Randy Beam to a 3-0 lead. Two-out singles by
Robbie Widlansky, Tim Mascia and Jeff Fiorentino did the early damage, but our
good feelings didn't last. As has been our pattern lately, our defense got
generous the next inning and provided JU the opportunity to cut the score to
3-2. We're going to fight uphill until we start playing better defensively.
Twelve of our last 40 runs have been unearned!
Mascia and Fiorentino continued to drive in runs, and we
held on to win 7-3. Beam had another good outing and gave the bullpen a rest
with a complete game.
The third and pivotal game of the series got off on the
wrong foot as we gave up a run in the first, but we came right back in the
second to tie. That back and forth pattern continued until the fifth, when we
finally had a big inning. The first seven batters reached base, but the big
story was a pinch-hit, two-run double by Andy Thoms.
Three years ago, Andy transferred here from Florida. He
played sparingly in 2002 and was the last player cut in December of that year.
It's never easy to cut anyone, but Andy is a great kid and could have played for
a lot of programs. But looking at our roster that fall, I could see very little
chance of Andy playing in 2003. I talked to him about trying to help him
transfer to a local D-II school, but he would have to sit a year because of his
Andy decided to stay with his friends at FAU and be a
student. He came to every home game, and I always felt a pang when I would see
him. This season's injuries and academic casualties have really left us
shorthanded. I looked up one night and saw Thoms in his usual spot behind the
fence at the end of our dugout. I walked over and asked him if he was interested
in joining us again.
Two days later, Andy walked into my office and asked if I
was serious. After explaining that we needed a right-handed hitter with power to
pinch hit and give us a sac fly or extra-base hit, I warned Andy that he needed
to be prepared for me to again break his heart. If he didn't get the job done,
he'd repeat his previous playing experience. Andy smiled and said that he'd take
As he strode to the plate yesterday in an inning just
begging to be broken open, I was hoping for a good ending to his story. Bang!
Andy ripped a shot in the gap to right-center, and we had
the lead for good.
Thoms is back!!!!
Bye Bye Buckeyes...Hello Dolphins (3/26/04)
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)