Kevin Cooney is in his 18th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic
University of the Atlantic Sun Conference and 22nd overall. A former pitching
star at Montclair State, Cooney has led FAU to an average of 46 wins per season
the past six years. He as guided the Blue Wave to a 273-106 record and five NCAA
Regionals in the past six years. This is the second year he has offered his thoughts on
baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
March 13, 2005
The Presidents of the Atlantic Sun Conference finally legitimatized our
baseball conference. Until this year, we were mandated to play a single game and
a seven-inning doubleheader as the format of a conference series. Since 1999,
the baseball coaches fought to create a series of three nine-inning games. The
proposal had the support of the Athletic Directors on two different occasions,
only to see the Presidents veto the change.
But this past Spring, the change was made. All games would be nine innings.
The series could be played over three days, but if a school insisted on a
two-day format, the doubleheader would take precedence. But they would be two
nine inning games.
This makes for a long day, but as Jay Bergman once said, "More games are won
or lost in the eighth and ninth than any other time of a game."
The advantage in a seven-inning game is that your bullpen isn't much of a
factor. Teams can run out two good starters and have a great chance of winning a
series. A nine-inning game puts more emphasis on a team's pitching depth and on
its bullpen. Most coaches would agree that the shorter game helps the weaker
I always hated seven-inning games. It seems as though the pressure to score
is on you right from the start. The shorter game seems to really change the
natural pace of a baseball game. My brain is constantly trying to figure out
what equivalent inning we're in when we're behind in a seven-inning game.
Thank goodness the change is in effect this season. It seems that this team
lives for the eighth and ninth innings. Friday night against Gardner-Webb was no
We were facing GWU pitcher Zach Ward, the pre-season Pitcher of the Year in
the A-Sun Conference. Zach has a 90+ fastball and a sharp, late-breaking
curveball. Runs were going to be scarce. We had Mike Crotta on the mound. Mike's
no slouch; he has evolved into our No. 1 pitcher, and is capable of keeping us
in any game.
Gardner-Webb struck first with a two-run, line-drive homer that just cleared
the fence in left. Our normal right-field wind has been absent lately, thanks to
a slow-moving weather system from the southwest. That ball would normally be an
easy out, as everything hit to left gets held up by the wind.
Thanks to the continued hot hitting of freshman Mike McKenna, we got on the
board in the fourth, and in the fifth, the speed of Mike McBryde saw him reach
first on an infield hit, move to second on an attempted pickoff and score on
Alex Fonseca’s single.
The game was tied.
In the sixth, the Bulldogs struck again. Blake Lalli fisted a bloop single
just over Hutton's head at second, and Ward again had a one-run lead. That score
held up until the eighth.
Yes, the eighth that would not have even been part of the game last year.
It was an inning that coach Tony Fossas called, "the ugliest I have ever
seen," and Tony's seen a few innings.
Jonathan Shapland reached on a hard-hit groundball ruled an error. Chris
Akins then pinch-ran and proceeded to do many things wrong, but managed to score
the tying run. On a failed hit and run, Chris slid safely into second, where he
nearly got picked off on the next play.
Then Bizzaro World began.
Brian Lipman struck out but reached first on a wild pitch. If you've seen
Brian run, you'd realize how bizarre it was. Daniel Cook ran for Lip.
Robbie Widlansky hit a high fly ball to left. Remember the wind?. The player
inserted in left for defense didn't and overran the ball. Akins went back to tag
instead of being halfway, and could only advance to third. Bases loaded nobody
The next pitch got past the catcher, and everyone was screaming go, go! Akins
hesitated just long enough to make it a bang-bang play at home. SAFE! Game tied.
Cook was at third, and Mascia at the plate is a good bunter.
I had forgotten that prior to the game, I was telling GWU coach Rusty Stroupe
the story of the Boston College game., about how I expected them to squeeze
because I would be squeezing in that situation. Well, Rusty remembered. As Cook
broke for the plate and Mascia squared, Ward threw a perfect pitchout. Cook
slammed on the brakes, blew a tire and fell down. But luckily for us, the
Bulldogs' third baseman was crashing on the play, and he also fell. The
shortstop had broken to second when he saw Mascia square to bunt, so there was
no one at third. Cook got to his feet first and slid safely back into third.
Remember, I said it was ugly.
Mascia struck out. But Alex Silversmith came up clutch and slapped a single
to left. Cook managed to keep his feet and made it home with the go-ahead run.
After the game, coach Fossas, who has a knack for mangling names, said that "Silversprinkles"
saved the day.
We still needed three outs.
Mike McBryde still can't pitch because of his fractured thumb, so we called
again on Mickey Storey. Mickey got his fourth save, and we got a huge win over a
Mike Crotta was tough, as he pitched a career-high eight innings and battled
all the way.
That gave us a sweep of the doubleheader, as we had exploded for five runs in
the first inning of the opener, and never looked back. Mike McKenna again was
the big gun as he went 3 for 3 with four RBI. Mike is getting more playing time
because of a back injury to first baseman Jordan Hafer. Coach Roig keeps asking
Jordan if he's ever heard of Wally Pipp.
Chris Salberg will be spending his meal money at the barbershop. Last week
against UNLV, their rowdy fans were getting on Chris because of his curly hair
that jutted out from under his cap. It's not really very long, but it is unruly.
I told Fossas that we needn't provide fuel to the opponents to use against
Chris, so I wanted his hair cut real short. I showed him my son Luke's buzz cut
as an example. (Luke decided to buzz a stripe through the middle of his head
Chris' cut isn't as drastic, but he looks good. His stuff looked just as good
on the mound as he carved up the Bulldogs through seven, striking out seven
while surrendering two hits.
He has another barber appointment Thursday.
MANN OH MANN...
Sunday, Will Mann took the hill to try and give us a sweep. Will had been
pitching in the No. 1 spot, but the rain game in Vegas and the emergence of
Crotta found him in the third game yesterday. If it bothered him, there were no
signs. Will threw a gem, surrendering only one run in the sixth, a run that by
rights shouldn't have happened. He wound up pitching eight strong innings,
scattering six hits while striking out four.
We led 4-1 and again signaled for Mickey Storey. Mick showed his human side
as he surrendered a high drive to right by Blake Lalli to make it a one-run
game. Just what I needed - more hair loss.
A groundout to short and two Ks later, Mickey had his fifth save, and we had
our first sweep in conference play- thanks to the Presidents.
Mike McBryde had a good day as we needed to manufacture some runs. He stole
four bases, scored three runs and had two hits. Speed kills. Mike continually
put pressure on the defense, and that led to our runs. Now if that fracture will
heal, we might start getting our money's worth out of Mike.
Madness and Soaring Eagles (3/11/05)
Viva Las Vegas (3/8/05)
The Rocket, and a Black and Blue Big Ten Weekend (3/1/05)
So You Wanted to Coach (2/21/05)
Mickey was the Story (2/15/05)
The Rocket's Red Glare (2/11/05)
It's a Dog's Life (2/3/05)
'You've Got to Learn to Live with What You Can't Rise Above' (1/31/05)
25 Years of FAU Baseball (1/16/05)
So this is Christmas (12/24/04)
The Graduate (12/8/04)
Thanksgiving in Palm Beach County (11/25/04)
An Empty Seat (11/10/04)
Fall is in the Air (10/21/04)
Hurricane Carmen (9/24/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)