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 Sword


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 tied.


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 this.


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 threat.


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 previous transfer.


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 that chance.


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!!!!




Previous Entries

Bye Bye Buckeyes...Hello Dolphins (3/26/04)

A Festive Week Ends in a Wreck (3/22/04)

Spring 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)