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.
May 27, 2005
The Storey Remains the Same
Atlantic Sun Tournament - Day 2
Way back in February, we discovered that Mickey Storey just might be
something special. He entered our game against Cincinnati on opening night and
dominated over the last four innings until we could score in the 13th.
Since that time, Mickey has been a model of consistency. He served as a setup
guy for Mike McBryde, alternated as a closer and then became our closer when
McByde fractured his thumb. When Mac returned to the mound, we put Storey in the
No. 1 spot in our rotation. The result was a kid who hasn't had a bad outing, on
his way to a 9-1 record with seven saves.
My way of looking at life revolves around the law of averages. So naturally,
I was scared that last night would be the bad game that was due. It's not normal
for a freshman to be so consistent and so dominant, and Storey was going against
a great hitting team.
But, the skinny kid from Deerfield doesn't think like an old man. These games
are fun for him. The challenge of facing Stetson in the atmosphere of a big home
crowd, and the pressure of Game 2 doesn't faze a young man whose life has been a
little tougher than most.
Mickey was up to the challenge - and more.
Two hours and 16 minutes, 116 pitches, four hits, seven strikeouts and zero
runs later, Mickey's telling reporters that the close games are fun to pitch,
and he felt untouchable in the eighth and ninth. Sweet youth.
The real victim in the story was Stetson starter Nathan Nery. The big lefty
was matching Storey pitch for pitch. But in the sixth, Jordan Hafer ripped a
ball past second baseman Chris Johnson that the official scorer, Ray Charles,
ruled an error, giving us a leadoff baserunner.
Mike McBryde pushed a bunt to first base, and the Stetson fielder made the
mistake of initially glancing at second before throwing to first. McBryde was
timed Wednesday at 3.6 to first by some scouts, so any hesitation can cost you.
We now had runners at first and second. Lefty Tim Mascia got the bunt sign
and bounced one to the third-base side of the mound. In this defense, the third
baseman's job is to read the bunt, and charge if it's hard or stay at the bag if
the pitcher can field it. The Stetson kid charged, but the pitcher fielded the
ball and turned and threw to third. Justin Hafer slid safely past the attempted
tag by the retreating third baseman.
We had the bases loaded-no one out. Here was our chance to break the game
open. Alex Fonseca stepped in - his last at-bat, he crushed a ball that the wind
kept in the park. We needed Fons to drive another.
Nery was up to the challenge, getting Fonseca on a high chopper to third, but
Hafer was able to score, and we had a lead. One run with Storey might be enough.
After an intentional walk and a strikeout, catcher Justin Martin was our hope
to increase the lead.
Back in mid-March, I had a little talk with Marty. He hadn't been playing as
well as he should. I told him the other two catchers were moving past him and he
needed to turn things up a notch. Some guys respond to that sort of challenge -
some fold their tent. Justin was brought up the right way.
As our conference season got in high gear at that same time, so did Justin
Martin. As we played through April, I started referencing our conference stats,
rather than our overall numbers. We were playing very few non-conference games,
so those numbers were more indicative of who was playing well.
Justin was one of our leading hitters in conference play. In the month of
May, he's batting .444. I'd say he took our conversation to heart.
Nery went after Marty with the sacks juiced, and looked to be in control.
With two strikes, however, Justin drilled a single to right, and McBryde and
Mascia raced home to give us a 3-0 lead.
I told Mickey we needed his best inning right here. Don't let any momentum
switch back to the Hatters' dugout. Mick gave us his best then, and repeated it
by striking out the side in the eighth.
The ninth would bring the top of the order and the speedy Shane Jordan. We'd
been able to keep him off base all night, which is one key to beating Stetson. A
groundball to Storey and we needed two more outs.
Nothing hard is ever easy.
After the second out, Brian Bocock singled to bring up Chris Johnson, the
league's leading hitter and Freshman of the Year. I was thinking more about
Braedyn Pruitt, the next hitter. If Johnson reached base, the left
handed-swinging Pruitt would represent the tying run with the wind blowing hard
toward the right-field foul pole.
Pruitt had already hit one deep ball off Mickey earlier, and I really didn't
like the matchup. We had already warmed up McBryde, so I might be faced with a
decision I would rather avoid.
The walk to the mound to take the ball from Storey would be a tough one to
make, but it would be the right thing to do. Johnson worked the count to 3-1 and
took a big hack at a fastball, fouling it back for strike two. Decision time for
Coach Fossas - do you risk walking Johnson by trying to beat him with a
curveball, or go right at him with a fastball?
When you've got an "Uncle Charlie" like Storey's, that decision is a little
easier. Mick broke off a nasty yakker for strike three. We're still in the
A great game came down to little things. Snap decisions on two bunts, and a
clutch base hit made the difference.
Now we have to wait all day and play the winner of the Stetson-Gardner-Webb
11 a.m. game. UCF and Troy play at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to the
championship game. Yesterday saw shutouts in all three games - not the usual
scenario in a conference tournament. We need to win tonight to give ourselves
the best chance at an NCAA at-large bd. Our goal is to win the tournament and
automatically qualify, but we need to be positioned as well as possible in the
event we don't.
Our RPI is 37 in one opinion, and 36 in another. There are two Web sites run
by the smartest math guys around, who try to mirror the NCAA geeks that compute
the official RPI. Being in the 30s gives us a shot.
But we only have 35 wins. We have played three fewer scheduled games than
most teams, so there are a lot of schools with more wins. The NCAA looks hard at
a team's last 10 games as a consideration for selection. We are 8-2 in that
stretch. Should we win tonight, that mark changes to 9-1.
Once again, we're going to Will Mann to pitch a crucial postseason game. Last
year it was the tournament championship final, and an elimination game against
N.C. State in the NCAA regional. Each time the big guy from Palm Beach Lakes
High answered the challenge. Tonight, Will needs to be the man.
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Georgia on my Mind (5/10/05)
We're Going to Disney World (5/4/05)
Halfway Home (4/12/05)
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)