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.
March 17, 2006
Renewing a Friendly Rivalry
In light of the tough weekend just
past, we’re happy to have two midweek games scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Baseball was meant to be played throughout the week, rather than just on the
weekend, particularly when we get stuck playing a doubleheader on Saturdays
instead of three games over three days. Our conference dictates that if one
school prefers the doubleheader format, the other must comply.
Last night, the Scarlet Knights of
Rutgers rode into town for our annual game. I’ve known Coach Fred Hill for a
long time, having succeeded him at Montclair State back in 1984. Since then he
has built Rutgers into one of the finest programs in the Northeast. We always
have a real competitive game, and tonight was no different.
As Fred and I commiserated before the
game, it became obvious that neither of our teams has yet hit their stride. His
bullpen has been shaky to this point, and our starters have struggled of late.
The night promised to be interesting.
I truly felt that this was a pivotal
game for us - we needed to put all facets of the game together and get back on
the winning track. We would have to do it without yet another injured starter.
Senior Tim Mascia is second on our team in hitting but slammed a car door on his
big toe Sunday. Today was the first time he could fit into his shoe, but he
could barely walk, let alone run.
How do you slam a door on your toe?
I slipped Jordan Hafer into Mascia’s
spot at the top of our batting order, despite Jordan’s size not exactly
reflecting that of a traditional leadoff hitter. Haf is about 6-4 and 230 pounds
of muscle, but he has a good eye at the plate, runs the bases well and doesn’t
mind taking a pitch in the gluteus maximus.
Mike McKenna insisted he was ready to
play, despite a MRI that showed a meniscus tear in his knee. There were too many
N.Y. and N.J. guys in the Rutgers lineup who Mac had played with or against back
on Staten Island, so he was playing as long as he could walk. He looked rusty at
the plate from his missed week, but the knee seemed to hold up for him.
Will Mann started for us and threw a
real good game for six innings. He gave up one run on a bloop single and struck
out seven. Will’s longest outing this year had been one inning, so after 90
pitches through six innings, we went to the pen. Thanks to solo home runs by
Will Block and Hafer, we had a short-lived 3-1 lead.
In a marathon seventh inning, four
relief pitchers were used as Rutgers tied the game, scoring two runs on an
infield hit and a bunch of walks. A Rutgers home run in the eighth, put us down
a run, but some clutch relief pitching by Joel Schmal prevented a larger
After an out in our half of the
eighth, Albano singled and stole second. Alex Silversmith, just off a hot
weekend at the plate, drew a walk on a couple of calls that went our way. Alex
Fonseca stepped in and worked the count to 2-1. I told Fossas I wanted to hit
and run, but Fons had previously flown out on the same play earlier in the game.
Doing nothing is sometimes a very good thing. Fonseca launched a bomb over the
left-field fence, and we were up 6-4.
The score held as Mike Crotta came in
and nailed down his third straight save.
I felt for Coach Hill - they haven’t
beaten us since 1998, and nearly all those games have been close or decided at
the end. On the bright side, Freddie heads home knowing his son, Fred Jr., is
likely the next head basketball coach at Rutgers. I wonder if there’s ever been
a father-son combo like that in the NCAA? Fred’s brother, Brian Hill is coach
of the NBA’s Orlando Magic; talk about good genes!
Tonight we play Columbia.
Let’s hope the spirit of Lou Gehrig
doesn’t help the Lions.
Carrot Top or Alexander
Hamilton…which alum’s school won a nail-biter?
FAU managed to pull out an exciting
game with a clutch two-out, two-strike double by Tyler Stevens, making Carrot
Top the winning alumnus of the night.
Tim Mascia returned to the lineup
nursing his sore toe, so he was instructed to limit his running. In his first
career at-bat as a DH, Timmy drove a fastball over the scoreboard in right, and
did his best Kirk Gibson around the bases.
The Lions came back to lead 2-1 until
Justin Martin launched his third home run into the trees in left, to give us a
4-2 lead after four. But Columbia is a team that doesn’t quit. In the sixth,
they took advantage of a questionable strike call, as Spencer Silverstein made
the most of his second life, drilling a double down the third-base line, tying
the game at 5 apiece.
Alex Silversmith’s two-run double in
the sixth gave us another brief lead, as some sloppy defense contributed to the
Lions’ two-run, seventh-inning rally, and we were knotted again.
By this time, I was desperate for
some offense and had made some substitutions that left us with some really
questionable defense. We had an infielder (Stevens) in left, a first baseman (Hafer)
in center, a catcher (Silversmith) in right and our DH (Ramirez), at first base.
As my Dad would say, I had things ass backwards.
We were still tied in the top of the
ninth, so our closer Mike Crotta came in and proceeded to give up a long fly
ball to right-center. Nobody would mistake Jordan Hafer for Andruw Jones, but
the big guy made a tough catch look easy. The next hitter drove another ball in
the same direction - what was Crotta trying to do? Hafer ran this one down, and
Crotta graciously struck out the last hitter.
After Alex Fonseca flew out to lead
off the ninth, Will Block caught the Lions’ third baseman sleeping, dropping
down a perfect bunt, and we had the winning run on first. Justin Martin handles
the bat pretty well, so we got a favorable count and tried to hit and run.
Martin’s groundball didn’t get through, but Block was safe at second on the
fielder’s choice, setting the stage for Tyler’s game-winning double.
Two less-than-pretty midweek wins are
more than welcome as we get ready for this weekend’s conference series against
new A-Sun member Kennesaw State. It will be the Owls against the Owls Friday
night in Boca. At least we have a day to practice some of our guys at their new
positions before we try to climb our way above .500.
A Few Good Men (3/14/06)
Songs about Texas (3/7/06)
Regression, Depression, Confession (2/27/06)
Cardinals, Owls and Captain Albano (2/20/06)
The Salukis and No. 98 (2/13/06)
The Adkins Diet and a Sunday Split (2/7/06)
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)