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.
June 7, 2004
Ebb Tide in the Seventh
The Blue Wave rolled into
the Coral Gables Regional hoping to wash through all the Hurricane preparations.
But the ocean has an ebb and flow to it. My watch is made by Rip Curl and has a
gauge that shows the rise and fall of the tides each day. I looked at it in the
seventh inning yesterday and it showed low tide: a painfully low tide.
We started off great,
scoring two runs off J.D. Cockroft. That was more runs than hits off him last
year. But Miami came right back with two of its own in the top of the second,
and two more by the fourth. We were down 4–2, and things weren’t looking too
In the fifth, Fiorentino
walked, Hutton singled and Mascia laid down a perfect sac bunt, and the runners
were in scoring position. Rusty Brown drove in Fiorentino with a sac fly. Robbie
Widlansky continued his hot hitting as he drilled a changeup off the parking
garage in right. Woody now had three RBI on the day, and Florida Atlantic was
back on top.
I forgot to mention the
rain delay. What would our game be without one? Miami had runners on first and
second none out in the fourth when the lightning detectors went off like the
Fourth of July. Before you knew it, we were taken by bus to the athletic
department building in whose bowels we spent the next two hours.
What do you do in a
pressure game during a rain delay? We ate bologna sandwiches and played “the
initial game.” It’s a good game to pass time on bus rides. It’s so simple but
frustrating. Anyway, I think we played that game better than the rest of the
Back on the field, Erick
San Pedro matched Woody’s homer with a solo shot to left, and we were tied
The Miami seventh inning
seemed to last as long as the rain delay.
Randy Beam quickly got the
first out, but a single sandwiched between two walks loaded the bases. We all
knew this was the pivotal spot in the game. Our dugout was screaming for a
double-play ball, a pop up or a strikeout. Beam was not as sharp as earlier, but
he was getting one more hitter. He hit him, forcing in the go-ahead run.
I went to Craig Hughes for
a right-on-right matchup with Jim Burt. I was a big Giants fan when his Dad
helped win a Super Bowl, but yesterday, the kid killed me. Burt greeted Hughes
with a bases-clearing double, and we trailed by four.
As badly as I felt, I
believed our hitters could get us back in this game. But the rest of the inning
went single, double, single, triple, an out and another double, before our
fourth pitcher of the inning recorded the final out. Things looked bleak.
I gathered our players and
gave them a few quiet thoughts about what we needed to do. Part of it included
spoiling the celebration that was already in full swing. We gave it a run by
scoring one and leaving the bases loaded on a long fly ball to left center.
The eighth signaled the
death knell, as Miami scored four more runs. Now, it was a matter of counting
the rest of the season down one out at a time. We would not pull off the upset
this day. Miami would again win a regional championship at home.
There is no team in college
baseball with more games played at home, and probably none with a better winning
percentage in those games. Beating them in a regional on their or any other
field is rarely done. Some day the wheel will come round. I hope I’m there when
On the plus side of my
visits to Miami is the chance to see public address announcer Jay Rokeach. He’s
like a tenth player for them, but a great guy and a friend. He even slipped some
Springsteen in for me.
I feel drained. Like every
other coach that has just ended his season, it is a tough time. We had a great
year, but I still feel empty.
A large reason for that is
because you realize some guys will never again be on the field for you. We had
great seniors, who were quality people as well as good ballplayers. I enjoyed
their company and being a part of this special time in their lives.
Nothing they do from this
point will be quite the same. The experience of being a teammate and the work,
struggles and success are unmatched out there in the real world.
Some of them will get the
chance to play pro ball and possibly someone will make the big leagues. But it
will be hard for them to match the bus rides, hotels, rain delays, Ryan’s
Steakhouse meals and all the many debacles that are part of traveling and
competing with that band of brothers that form a college baseball team.
That’s what keeps bringing me back for more.
The Mann of the Moment (6/6/04)
The Wolf at the Door (6/5/04)
Land of Hope and Dreams (6/2/04)
Glory Days (5/30/04)
Blue Wave Crashes on Two to Reach A-Sun Final (5/28/04)
Seniors Rule the Day (5/27/04)
A Lefty Lift (5/26/04)
Missing the Fons (5/26/04)
Who'll Stop the Rain? (5/23/04)
The 'Badlands' of Miami (5/19/04)
A Bad Part of a Good Job (5/14/04)
Sweep Home Alabama (5/12/04)
Winless at Winthrop, but Victorious in Friendship (5/3/04)
To Bunt or Not to Bunt - That is the Question (4/27/04)
The Promised Land (4/21/04)
A Little Rusty (4/17/04)
Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's Door (4/15/04)
OB Gets CG for FAU vs. UCF (4/13/04)
The Present and the Past (4/8/04)
Held Up Without a Gun (4/5/04)
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)