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.






April 27, 2006

Getting a Look at No. 1


We decided to take a ride in my car, “White Lightning,” to do today’s blog since we haven’t talked in the car yet. Plus, I just got my car back with my window incident fixed, along with some work that needed to get done internally. So we are definitely glad to be back in the car. People may think it’s a little cheesy to do that, but I had to run an errand real quick and Joe [Joe Trahan, who conducts this blog] was running short on time too, so we compromised because the car had air conditioning.


I’m definitely glad to have the car back because it’s a big part of me, and it’s nice to ride in the “White Lightning” again. 


Now to baseball, Rice definitely played to its billing of being the No. 1 team in college baseball because it didn’t make any mistakes. Every routine play was made; every time they tried to bunt, hit and run or any small thing, they did it precisely every single time.  They didn’t even make any errors the whole weekend.


Friday night, they jumped out on us, but it was a windy night. They were up 4-1, and then had a big grand slam in the fifth inning. After that, they tacked on a home run here and there to add to their lead. Saturday and Sunday were a lot closer games. I though that we had just as good a chance to win both of those games as they did, and we’re very disappointed that we didn’t at least come out with at least one win in the series.


We had just as many opportunities as they did in the second and third games, and on Sunday I think we had more opportunities than them as a whole. However, they cashed in better, and that’s how it works. If you wanted to compare this to a football game, we drove down the field plenty of times, but we had to settle for field goals every time because we couldn’t punch it in, or we turned the ball over on the 5 yard line. We were right there knocking on the door the whole time, and things didn’t go our way.


I can’t even think of how many people I left on base this weekend. This was probably the worst weekend of my career. I had one meaningless hit on Friday night and that was it. It burns me up that I did that poorly and let my team down. I’m not going to put all the blame on myself; I’m just saying that we all expect to do well in those types of situations. 


Though we were swept, we improved as a team. Our RPI even got better; it went from 48 to 45 after being swept, which is kind of crazy, but we’ll take it. They’re a really good team and though they may be No. 1, I still thought that we matched up well with them, and if we can match up with them, we can match up with anybody.


There is a certain confidence that comes with playing a team like that when you get in the trenches with them, especially when you know you can win against them. If every game would have been 12-3, then we would have come back here thinking that we need to make some deep changes. However, we don’t have to change much; we just need to soul search a little more. Maybe we need to dig deep and make some corrections mentally, as well as how we play the game. We need to do the little things right like approaching game each at-bat like it’s our last. There wasn’t as much urgency in the first and second games as there was on Sunday late in the game where we had a great sense of urgency, and it reflected because we came back in that game and tied it up at 3-3. I speak for the whole team when I say no one was happy playing Rice close. A lot of times, I would much rather get blown out than I would lose a close heartbreaking game like Sunday’s game. Games like that leaves a gut wrenching feeling in your stomach.


With our season already past the midway point, I think we’ve peaked in both aspects of the game, pitching and hitting, and I hope that we stay consistent on the mound and at the plate. On the other hand, our defense hasn’t really peaked yet, so I’m hoping that we peak toward the end of the season in that way. We had good pitching this weekend, believe it or not.


Friday didn’t reflect good pitching, but we really had some good pitches that night. The score does not reflect how the game really went.  We had a couple of situations where we would make some errors, let some runs in, or walk a guy. It didn’t reflect how well the game was actually played. Our pitching has come a long way, and our starters are throwing the ball well right now. And we’re getting great effort out of out relievers.


Offensively, we just went up against one of the best ERAs in the country (3.04, ranked No. 6 nationally), and we still managed to bang out seven or eight hits a game. We need to get the big hits. The biggest hit we had yesterday was a two-run double by Trey Sutton, scoring Jody Blount from first. The only reason he scored was because he had a head start on the final pitch of a full count and was a really close play. Then Toddric Johnson comes up and got on behind him with a single. That’s as clutch as our hitting got this weekend. We need more timely hitting rather than a various number of hits. We need to wait it out and we’ll be fine.  I don’t think that peaking is as important as getting to a point and staying consistent.


We have a big midweek series with Mississippi State this week. They started off 18-0 and were No. 1 in the country for a spill. As a whole, they’re a great, veteran team with players that have been there all been there as long as I’ve been here at Southern Miss with Marc Maddox, Cliff Russum and Daniel Best. I remember when Daniel started a game at Mississippi State when he was a freshman in which he pitched well and we got the win over there. All the guys who were there then are still there now. It’s funny because as good as their team is, and as good as we’ve been, there haven’t been any lopsided games. That reason is because we see each other so much. We know how to pitch to each other, and we know how to defend against the other. We know that when their leadoff guy gets up, Marc is going to play in on the grass because he’s going to threat to bunt.


The biggest difference between our series with Ole Miss and Mississippi State is that there is always going to be a little time between our Ole Miss games, but State is usually two games and they’re always back-to-back.  In the past, we’ve taken the trip up there, but this year we’re home. Both rivalries are great, as I can’t say if it’s more or less personal with Ole Miss. We play Ole Miss either two or three times a year, and we try to keep up with who is leading the series. I guess you could say that it may be a little more personal with Ole Miss, and State is more professional. They have one of the winningest coaches ever (Ron Polk), and he is a very professional guy. Coach Palmer is also a professional guy, and when those two guys get out there, there is not bad blood between them. They have respect for each other and each other’s programs. If we were to get up about nine runs on them, we wouldn’t run the bases on them, and they wouldn’t do it to us either. We would never do anything to disrespect each other’s teams. As much respect as we have for them and vice versa, when the umpire says ‘play ball,’ there is no love lost and it’s time to get after it. We usually split with them, and I’m tired of that. We want to win two games. For us to feel like we’re getting back on track, we need to win both of these games and could be a good turning point for us. 


We’ve unfortunately lost five out of our last six conference games, and these are waters that we’re not used to. Cliff, Marc and I were talking about how we’re 5-7 in conference right now, and we’ve never been 5-7 in conference. We feel like we’re a better team than a 5-7 record shows. It might make people overlook us, but I doubt it. We still have our conference championship from a couple of years ago (2003), and we still have a program that has been established. We’re mad that we’re losing ball games that we should be winning. We’re mad that we are 5-7 in conference and 27-15 overall. We thought we’d have at least 30 wins by now.


Mississippi State is the next team in line, and then we go to Marshall. Our games against Mississippi State are our last midweek games, which is a good and bad thing. It’s a chance to see different teams while playing people outside your conference. Once midweek games are over, you don’t have to save a pitcher for a start. You get to have a pitcher for whenever. Your weekend rotation changes because you can have people stacked behind starters in case there is some early trouble. We’re going to turn it into a positive thing. I think that our season is on the way up, and I feel like this was a little stumbling block. We stumbled, but we’re not going to fall.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Ready for Spring Break (4/11/06)

Conference Sweep (3/27/06)

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)