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.
April 6, 2006
Burrowing Owls and Florida Panthers are both protected species in
the state of Florida.
But last night, the Golden Panthers of Florida
International made their way up the Florida Turnpike to take on the Owls of
Florida Atlantic in the first of two midweek games scheduled this season. Next
year, we join FIU in the Sun Belt Conference, adding a bit more significance to
our games, beyond local bragging rights.
FIU had been a top program in the A-Sun’s
precursor, the Trans America Athletic Conference, before its exit to the SBC.
The Golden Panthers usually held sway over us back then, as we were cutting our
teeth in Division I and trying to get our program established. Danny Price had
some great teams back then, and they won the TAAC Championship in their last
year of play.
Since that time, our rivalry has evolved into a
midweek format, devoid of conference ramifications. Our coaching staffs all get
along well, and our games have been hard fought, but cordial.
Last night I was anxious to see how we would
bounce back from Saturday’s loss and a bit apprehensive in light of FIU’s
impressive 24-10 record. It’s no secret that we’ve had our struggles, but
winning eight of our last twelve games has us headed in the right direction.
We started strong by scoring four runs in the
second. Alex Silversmith got things started with a leadoff double, Will Block
reached on the first of three Golden Panther errors in the inning, then two bunt
hits and a Tim Mascia double gave us a lead we would not relinquish.
Meanwhile, Will Mann was in a groove throwing
groundballs, at one point retiring nine straight hitters. Nick Arata, Block and
Danny Cook all got a workout, thanks to Will.
Groundball pitchers tend to keep everyone sharper
on defense, and those three young players looked good.
But young players sometimes regress, and in the
seventh, we mishandled some balls that turned a nice shutout by Will Mann into a
four-run game and a concerned first base dugout.
I had earlier subbed freshman Travis Ozga for Ovy
Ramirez with the hope that Travis might get a couple of at-bats as we finished
off the Panthers. Little did I know that Travis would be up with two runners on
base in a close game, instead of our leading RBI guy.
Travis stepped in a drilled a double into
left-center and got us back to a more comfortable six-run lead, making me look
like I know what I’m doing.
Meanwhile, I was trying to deal with an umpiring
crew that consisted of one guy whose son played for me, another who coached my
own son and the third who once ejected me for saying “Ask, please.”
AJ Lostaglio has become a good umpire since that
warm Sunday in February of 1997 when an NC State player tried to check his swing
and my request for an appeal went unanswered by AJ behind home plate. I repeated
the request, a bit louder this time - still no response from AJ. The third “Ask
please” was loud enough to be heard by my wife, sitting under a palm tree all
the way down the left-field line, where I soon joined her after AJ decided he
had heard enough.
I’ve enjoyed watching AJ on television during the
College World Series; he always seems to be in the middle of the action, usually
doing a good job.
Last night, he ran towards our dugout at the end
of the fifth, asking to use the port-o-john.
Not known for his punctuality, I had our batter
prepared to stall his approach to the plate. Suddenly AJ was behind me asking if
I had a spare hat! He said his had fallen into the port-o-john, and was soaked.
I couldn’t believe my ears and just laughed at the sight of him there hatless.
AJ whipped his hat out from behind his back (dry
as a bone) and had his laugh at having gotten me. He joked that had it really
happened, it would have finally gotten him into this diary.
I thought he missed a call later in the game, but
couldn’t get mad at him.
Our bullpen held FIU to only two runs the rest of
the way, as our offense added another two on Jordan Hafer’s fifth homer in the
eighth. It was great to see our offense have such a good night. We scored in six
of the eight innings, led by Tim Mascia’s 5-for-5 night.
Game 1 of the Turnpike Tussle is in the books,
and the good offense needs to continue into the weekend, as we face a stiff
challenge against VCU’s pitching staff - they’re holding teams to a .232 batting
We may have a weekend off in conference, but we need to keep
climbing back up the ladder to turn the season around.
Crimson and Camels (4/4/06)
Everyone Wants to be the Man at the Top (3/28/06)
A Great Day for the Irish (3/22/06)
Renewing a Friendly Rivalry (3/17/06)
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)