is in his 19th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic University, where
he has compiled a record of 650-403-4. Overall, he has a record of 790-453-9 - a
.631 winning percentage - in 22 years. FAU has reached the NCAA regionals seven
times under Cooney, including each of the past four seasons. This is the third year
Cooney has offered his
thoughts on baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
Feb. 7, 2006
The Adkins Diet and a Sunday Split
Friday’s opener against Tennessee featured a steady diet of James
Adkins and his assortment of dominant breaking stuff.
It’s been some time since I’ve seen a left-handed pitcher make right-handed
batters look so bad. The Vols’ ace isn’t a changeup, movement type of lefty - he
buries hard breaking balls in on righties and away from the lefties.
The matchup with Mickey Storey that everyone expected didn’t materialize.
Mickey had a hard time finding a rhythm and never did settle into the game. It
wouldn’t have mattered much, the way we swung the bat on Friday.
Our crowd Friday night was the best in the past few years, although there
were a large number of people wearing orange. My wife’s first memory is being 4
years old going with her father to UT football games in Knoxville. Mary Beth’s
grandmother had season tickets back in the ‘20s, when Neyland Stadium was just a
structure with wooden bleachers. Despite all that, she wore nothing orange and
suffered with us in our loss.
Saturday was a rain-soaked South Florida winter’s day, resulting in the
postponement of our second game. So Sunday morning, we faced off again in an
early-morning doubleheader. I told our players after Friday’s loss that the
measure of us as people, and as a team, would be how we handled the bad things.
It’s easy to play when things are going well. It’s a different story when you
fall on your face and have to start again.
The old saying is that “losing builds character.” I’ve always said that
“losing reveals character.” If people start doubting and pointing
fingers, your team is in trouble.
We came out Sunday ready to play, and things looked as promising as the
weather when Chris Salberg struck out the first two UT hitters. But then some
control trouble set in, and we were down 2-0.
Former coach Jim Lyttle was in the dugout and had mentioned in the first
inning that the Tennessee pitcher finished his delivery in bad fielding position
and would be vulnerable to a bunt. Always ready to steal someone’s idea, in the
fourth I flashed Alex Fonseca the bunt for a hit sign. As Fons beat the play to
first, I thought of my son Jeff’s advice that we should constantly bunt, so
McBryde followed with his own bunt hit. After a strikeout, Ramirez, Widlansky,
and McKenna hit consecutive doubles, and we had a 5-3 lead.
The game became a struggle because we continued to play poorly on defense.
All fall and during pre-season, we had been solid defensively, but Friday night
and Sunday, we couldn’t do much right. The character I was hoping to see
revealed was, as we lost the lead but immediately battled back to again go on
top. But our defense kept biting us and we ended the game with the tying run
stranded at second base.
The second game saw us jump out to an early 6-0 lead thanks to home runs by
Alex Silversmith, Will Block and Anthony Albano. Block usually displays a poker
face, but running into the dugout, he was smiling ear to ear. When your first
college hit is a bomb, it’s time to smile. Albano had extra reason to smile as
well. Anthony was out all last season with shoulder surgery, and hadn’t hit well
all fall. His preseason swings were better, and he looked good Sunday. It’s nice
to see a good kid rewarded.
Mike McBryde had pulled up lame hitting a double in the opener and was
unavailable for the nightcap, so we wouldn’t have our closer. The 6-0 start and
Joel Schmall’s early dominance on the mound looked to make Mike’s loss a moot
point. But the UT guys finally broke through against Schmall, and before you
could say, “closer,” the score was 6-5.
Will Mann came in and did a great job to shut down the Vols for 2.1 innings.
It was just what we needed as the tension grew. It was a seven-inning game
because of their flight.
Will got the first out but then an infield hit and a bloop single put runners
at first and second. I thought we needed a change in velocity to prevent another
cheap hit. The question was, did Brandon Cooney have enough left after pitching
nearly three innings and taking a loss in the opener? A strikeout and a
groundball later, we had the answer - and our first win.
So, Opening Weekend is over, and what have we learned?
We went toe to toe with the ninth-ranked Volunteers from the Southeastern
Conference, and probably should have won two out of three. Coach Delmonico
called me from the airport and had a lot of nice things to say about our club.
Coming from a coach who faces the level of competition his conference presents,
his words meant a lot to me.
Albano’s performance is very encouraging. It will be a great story if he can
come all the way back. I was pleased with the way our hitters responded after
Friday’s struggles and am confident that our defensive problems will be
I was disappointed that Bruce Springsteen and his wife didn’t show for any of
the games. They were in Palm Beach County, and I had them on the pass list.
guess he doesn’t read this stuff after all.
Here we go again (2/2/06)
Holy Innocents (12/28/05)
When You're Alone (10/11/05)
Another Beginning, a New Beginning, Never Forgetting (9/12/05)
Deja vu all over again (9/1/05)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)