Kevin Coker is a senior catcher for Southern Miss who will contribute a weekly journal to in 2006. A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Coker started 52 games last year for the Golden Eagles, batting .318 with five homers and 38 RBI.  Off the field, Coker enjoys fishing and shooting pool.






March 27, 2006

Conference Sweep


3-0 in conference, baby, which is the way we like it. We wanted to go over to UAB and give them the best we could, and I think that we did that, as were able to come away with three wins.

We’re still riding our pitchers for the most part, as we’ve been doing all season. For the weekend, the least amount of innings that our starters went was five innings (Scott Massey - eight innings, David Clark - 5.2 innings, Cliff Russum - seven innings), and that was simply because David Clark had a pitch count that had gotten away from him a little bit, and he threw a few more pitches than the others did.

It’s impressive that the “worst” outing we had was five innings, and then you look at what Cliff did with throwing a one-hitter. Cliff pitched a gem, throwing 75 percent fastballs, and he was spotting that thing every time and throwing it wherever he wanted to. After winning the first two games in a conference weekend, it’s easy to slack up and allow someone to steal a win from you to prevent you from sweeping.

However, Cliff came out in the first inning of Sunday’s game to strike out the first batter of the game and didn’t let up from there. He gave up a run, but it wasn’t earned, and struck out six. He also had millions of groundballs, and that’s the difference with Cliff this season. He used to be a strikeout and fly-ball kind of pitcher. Now, he’s a groundball guy, with the occasional strikeout and a couple of fly balls. People aren’t hitting the ball hard off of him right now, which I love, and he’s doing a great job.

The one hit that he did give up was hit back up the middle, hit Cliff in the leg and ricocheted towards Trey Sutton with a cue ball type spin on it, almost like someone had put some top-right English on it to give it a lot of spin. It was a do-or-die play, and unfortunately it didn’t happen for us as he didn’t get the no-hitter. However, he still had a great outing and didn’t give up an earned run. That is exactly what he wants to do, by giving us the best chance to win when he pitches. Sure, he would have liked to have had a no-hitter, but he’s not frowning on it because he’s not about those kinds of things. He’d give up 50 hits if he knew we were going to win the game.

On a personal note, I was hit by three pitches this weekend, and I’m up to 12 right now. I think I’m trying to break the all-time record! [Coker is currently tied for ninth in being hit by a pitch the most in one season. Griff Israel holds the record, as he got plunked 19 times during the 2002 season.] I think I figured out the way to steal first, as this is the way by sticking your elbow out there!

We hit the ball well this weekend and had a lot of timely hits. Marc Maddox hit a ball through the wind that still hasn’t landed yet. Then Trey Cuevas came out on Sunday and did the same thing with his homer. They both hit balls with the wind blowing in 15 to 20 mph, and they cut that wind like it was nothing.

Though I had my hit streak snapped on Sunday (It reached 11 games dating back to March 8 against Louisiana Tech), I’m not going to bring out the clippers yet. I have a deal with my mom that since the game was cut short [due to the 10-run rule], and I would have been first up the next inning, she said that if I don’t get two hits against Ole Miss, then I can cut my hair as planned. So I decided that since she is my mom, I would give her that because she likes me to have hair on my head.

If you look at it, it’s a fair deal because it’s the one at-bat that I lacked last game, plus the rest of the at-bats at this game. So if I don’t get multiple hits, the hair is coming off. However, whenever I shave it, I have to shave it no later that 11:50 p.m. because I have a superstition that you don’t shave anything on game day. You can’t shave your face or get a haircut the day of the game, and that’s the way it is for Marc and I at least because we’re weird like that.

Now, Scott Massey will shave his face the day he pitches. He’ll shave his face everyday of the week, but I don’t see how he does it other than I guess it’s because his face is a lot less sensitive than mine. I can’t stand to shave! So the whole reason I’m holding off on shaving my head is because it’s my mom’s birthday today, so I’m probably going to grant her that early birthday present, so Happy Birthday Mom! Now if I get two hits - the hair stays.

Our next game against Ole Miss is going to be a fun and tough game. We’re going to have to clamp down hard on them, and give them everything we’ve got. They’re having a tough season right now (13-11), but regardless of what kind of season you’re having, it’s still a big game between us and them. If you think about it this way, if Ole Miss hadn’t won a game at all in a football season, playing the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State still makes their season.

Now, I’m not saying that we’ve become that big of a rival with them, but we are a rival. After all, we did split the series with them last season, including winning here on a walk-off home run. They probably still have that in their hip right now, and don’t like that too much. They have the same feelings for us that we have for them, and I’m going to leave it at that.

We have Barry Bowden going against them, and he had a great game last week against Louisiana-Monroe, but we didn’t hit anything to help him out. He’s going to go out there and give us some strong innings, and if he gets into any jams, for the first time in a long time, we have everybody in the bullpen ready to go since our starters got the majority of the work done this weekend. Daniel Best could go as many innings as he needs to, Matt Caire can get out there as well as he didn’t have to pitch at all this weekend, and Ryan Belanger pitched only one inning. So those are our two setup men and our closer who are ready to get out there and get after it.

This is Ole Miss, and that’s all you have to say. It doesn’t matter how either of us is playing right now, this one game can turn either of our seasons around in the right or wrong direction.

We’ve swept the last three weekends (Buffalo, Troy and UAB), but we’ve always found a way to let up during the week, and we can’t let that happen this week and keep pushing through this. To win this game would give us a lot of momentum for the rest of this season.

This weekend we have Memphis coming in here, and they’re going to give us everything we can take. They beat Tulane last Friday night, behind a guy who hit three home runs in that game [First baseman Adam Amar]. They have some hitters on that team, and I have a buddy of mine who plays there that I went to high school with - Joey Lieberman (1B/OF) transferred up there this season from Meridian Community College.

I was talking to him the other day, and he was saying how he can’t wait to get down here and play. I’ve never played against him, so it’s going to be fun to do that. They’re going to come down here and play with reckless abandonment, whether we get into a pitching duel or it turns out to be an offensive game. Whether it’s a close or high-scoring game, we’re going to want to win it regardless. We’re going to give whatever effort necessary to win all three games this weekend and hopefully be 6-0 and sitting at the top of the league in C-USA.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

The Arms Race (3/22/06)

Midweek Showdown with the Crimson Tide (3/14/06)

Getting the Offense in Gear (3/8/06)

Leaning on the Freshmen (3/1/06)

The Fun has Begun (2/21/06)


(photo courtesy of Southern Miss Media Relations Office)