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.
April 12, 2005
That’s not a
reference to suspended steroid users; it’s the mid-point of our conference
schedule with Belmont University coming to town. As we enter the fifth weekend
of A-Sun play, a look at the standings is appropriate.
UCF and Troy are
tied for first place with 9-3 records, Mike Hurst’s Georgia State boys are in
third at 10-5 and Mercer is in sole possession of fourth with an 8-7 record.
Stetson and FAU are tied at 6-6, with the Hatters in fifth by virtue of their
series win over us two weeks ago. JU, Lipscomb, GWU, Belmont and Campbell trail
the six leaders. The top six get to the conference tournament in Deland.
Belmont has a
respectable 16-13 record, but like us, has been less than stellar in A-Sun play.
Last season we had three great games, capped off by a game-ending triple play
and a mad dash to the Nashville Airport. Coach Jarvis always brings an
aggressive style of play to town to challenge any team’s defense.
Each series will be
a key one from this point forward. We need to get back on a winning track and
make a move up in the standings. The schedule shows little relief after this and
next week, as we then play the four teams above us. All you mathematicians out
there should be able to figure we need a sweep or two in the next two weeks.
Sweep? We haven’t won a series in the last three tries. Be that as it may, a
sweep is our goal.
Setting that high a
standard is ambitious for a young team that has shown such inconsistency. But as
I told our kids in practice yesterday, we have shown signs of getting better
each week. There is no reason for us to quit on ourselves and assume we can’t do
what we’ve set out to do.
What are the signs
to look for in our team?
Well, our starting
pitching needs to be more consistent. We have good arms, but need each guy to
give us five strong innings. We then need to finesse the sixth and ride Storey
and McBryde through the remainder of the game. That duo has been tough so far.
We need to play
better defense. At times we’ve been outstanding, but if your starters sometimes
have to get five outs instead of three, they’ll rarely have the lead we want for
the bullpen to protect.
Our clutch hitting
will have to continue the improvement it’s shown. We are gradually getting
better at the plate. Tim Mascia seems to have found his stroke, and Tyler
Stevens and Bobby DiLoberto have given us a boost. Mike McKenna has been a real
pleasant freshman surprise. Mac’s leading the team in hitting and carries an OPS
we need to believe in ourselves. That seems simple enough, but for a young team,
it’s a little tougher. Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, our kids
need to keep an aggressive mindset and approach the entire game positively.
Last night, I
attended a Sports Auction sponsored by our Athletic Department. A number of
people approached me and seemed as though they wanted to console me over our
performance this season. I guess we’ve spoiled people the past five years, but I
don’t feel that this is a lost season.
seemed to have that outlook.
It has been
different. I don’t see our names in the national polls, and a look at our record
would indicate that an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament is not likely.
However there is a lot of season to play, and the schedule, though difficult,
presents as much opportunity as it does challenge.
season, like life, is often a long, strange trip .We need to get up each morning
and face that day’s challenge, prepared to make our mark in the world. Right now
it’s the world of baseball.
Like the song says:
Tonight I’ll be on
that hill ‘cause I can’t stop,
I’ll be on that
hill with everything I got,
Lives on the line
where dreams are found and lost,
I’ll be there on
time and I’ll pay the cost…
The cost of working
out, practicing, studying and each game, trying to get better, the dream of
winning and attaining the team goal of a championship, that’s what’s on the line
the rest of the way.
We were 6-6 last
year at this time, and won the conference tournament. KC
So much for a sweep
- we split a doubleheader yesterday, keeping us at .500 in the conference. Our
Friday night game was rained out, necessitating another twin bill.
The first game
looked promising as Chris Salberg looked sharp early. Chris was carving up the
Bruin hitters until the fifth. Suddenly our 3-0 lead became a 5-3 deficit as
Belmont connected for two home runs and took a lead it never relinquished.
In the second game,
the Bruins rapped out nine hits and four runs through the first four innings to
take a 4-1 lead. We came back to regain the lead in the bottom frame, as Mascia
doubled and was driven in by Brian Lipman. After a Tyler Stevens single and a
fielder’s choice by Justin Martin, Mike McBryde drilled a hanging slider over
the left-field fence for a 5-4 lead.
We went to Mickey
Storey in the fifth. I was determined to stop the Belmont offense and give us
more time to score. They tied the game on a throwing error, but we came back
again in the sixth on McBryde’s second homer of the day. Mickey continued to mow
down the Bruins, and we exploded for six more runs in the seventh to put the
So today we’re
still faced with the same uncertainty that the series originally presented.
Will Mike Crotta go
out and give us the starting performance we so desperately need? Will our
defense return after our five-error performance in yesterday’s win?
We’ll know in a few
Sunday bloody Sunday
The tragedy of
losing is nothing compared to the real tragedies of life, but to those who
compete in the arena, for a time, it’s close. Everything we stressed as
important on Friday came up short for us today.
We hoped to hold
Belmont down early; instead they jumped out in the first by two. Our guys came
back to knot it in the bottom and then take a one-run lead on Brian Lipman’s
home run in the second. That lead was short lived as the Bruins put up a two
spot in the third.
Then, the fifth was
a dagger in the heart as Brandon Kloess appeared to have pitched out of a jam,
only to get burned by a three-run shot by Kane Simmons. Meanwhile Justin Jordan
settled in and did a good job of keeping us off base. In the ninth, we scored
two and got the tying run to the plate, but again came up short.
Now we’ll let the
dust settle and see where we stand.
Next weekend we’re
in Music City against Lipscomb. This week will be one to regroup, retool and
refocus. It’s obvious where we seem to be short and those areas will be
addressed. There’s still time to right the ship.
But there are tough seas ahead.
Lost in the Flood (4/8/05)
Good Things Come to Him Who Waits (4/6/05)
A Long Ride Home (4/3/05)
The Working Life (3/31/05)
A Good Friday (3/28/05)
St. Patrick's Day on Wheels (3/18/05)
Beware the Ides of March (3/16/05)
Conference Sweep (3/13/05)
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)