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.
April 5, 2004
Held Up Without a Gun
If you want to hear that song, you need to go to Disc 3 of The Essential Bruce
Springsteen. It's taken from a New Year's Eve concert at the Nassau Coliseum in
1980. This track includes some serious singing by Little Steven Van Zandt,
better known now as Silvio on The Sopranos.
The first thing that needs to be said is "Hats off to the Hatters." After a
hard-fought, emotional, back-and-forth loss to us on Friday night, the Stetson
kids and coaches were able to continue the same sort of game on Saturday. Not
many people would feel capable of coming back against a pitcher like Randy Beam
after being down 7-0 and then 8-1. But come back they did.
Our kids were equal to the task, and we answered the Stetson charge each time.
The seven-inning game was now in the 10th inning and its third hour, as Rusty
Brown delivered a two-run double to put us back on top. But the bottom of the
10th became a FAU nightmare.
How many times can you have two outs and make mistakes that prevent getting the
third and final one?
We misplayed a ground ball into a bad-hop single and set the stage. Reliever
Alan Knight did his job and threw what appeared to be Strike 3, but the plate
umpire disagreed. The next hitter saw the same result, twice. Finally, a base
hit by Joey Wilson sealed our fate and Stetson had completed their comeback.
We went from a sure series win and good chance for a sweep to having to
emotionally regroup in 30 minutes and salvage a split.
We were unable to pull it off despite a solid effort from Matt O'Brien on the
mound. The game-winning hit was set up by us not properly executing a bunt
defense, so we have no one to blame but ourselves. After all the offense of
Friday night and Saturday's first game, all we could muster was a run driven in
on a fielder's choice.
Friday night, we won a 9-8 thriller. The weekend pattern was established early,
as we took an early two run lead, only to have Stetson tie it in the second
inning. We scored one in the third and three in the fourth, only to see Stetson
answer with one in the fourth and three in the fifth to tie it at six. Rob Horst
doubled in a run to give us a lead in the seventh, but Stetson roared back with
two in the eighth to take an 8-7 lead.
The ninth inning seemed to take two hours to play. After Mike McBryde grounded
out, Jeff Fiorentino lifted a fly ball down the left-field line. The night's
strong winds blew it out of the shortstop's reach and untouched onto the ground.
Fiorentino then stole second. bringing the hot-hitting Rob Horst to the plate.
The Old Man scorched a double down the left-field line and then alertly rumbled
into third as the relay was overthrown. Tim Mascia calmly laid down a perfect
suicide squeeze, and we again had the lead.
Stetson came right back in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff single by
Bryan Zenchyk. A wild pitch advanced him to second. Reliever Chris Saxton then
walked Brandon Paritz. It was clear that Chris did not have his usual stuff. He
was wild high, which is unusual for him.
Stetson then attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but Jeff Fiorentino made a
great play on the bunt to get the lead runner at third. One out; two more to
Leadoff hitter Shane Jordan reached on a fielder's choice, as we forced John
Tinnell at second. Jordan can fly, so we had no chance to turn the double play.
First and third, two outs; Joey Wilson coaxed a walk to load the bases.
Braedyn Pruitt, a freshman from Palm Beach County having a great year, steps in
and runs the count to 3-0.
Chris Saxton has been here before. Actually, it was last year at Miami in a tie
game, bases loaded, 3-0 to Ryan Braun, another pretty good freshman.
Chris got the sign and calmly threw Strike 1. The Ice Man does it again. The
next pitch is bounced to shortstop on a field whose surface plays like Highway
61. Alex Fonseca races in for the short hop, gloves it and throws a strike to
first. Game over!
What a weekend! Those games contained about as much emotion, character and
resiliency as you could ever hope to see young men display. Like I said to Coach
Dunn after Saturday's games, he should be proud of his players. I was of mine.
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword (3/27/04)
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)