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.
May 10, 2006
An Early Postseason
Going into this weekend, I told our guys that the postseason was already
here. Our three-game conference series with Lipscomb University had to be viewed
in that light if we wanted to be playing when the tournament actually rolls
around. It was imperative that we win this series, but a sweep would have been
The first game looked good for us Friday night, as we jumped in front early
and cruised to a 10-6 victory. Tim Mascia led our early offense, going 3 for 3
with a triple and two RBI. Tyler Stevens did a good job in his first game at
first base, making several nice plays and driving in a couple of runs. Mike
McKenna returned to the lineup for the first time since March 14 and looked good
at the plate, getting robbed twice while managing one single.
Mickey Storey held the Bisons scoreless through the first five, surrendering
only one unearned run through six innings. Will Mann did a great job at the end
in silencing a late Lipscomb rally, as the big senior made his first relief
appearance in six weeks.
Saturday brought another doubleheader. We sure have played our share of those
this year. Our conference still allows the format if one school balks at playing
over three days. The Lipscomb administration chose to invoke the doubleheader
rule despite the fact that the team was not leaving until Sunday anyway. Last
year, we spent the extra day in Nashville in order to play the series over three
What’s good for the goose is supposed to be good for the gander - or so my
Dad told me.
Brandon Cooney was on the hill and looked real sharp in the first. He pitched
out of a jam in the second but looked real winded in the dugout afterwards. I
don’t know what happened, but his stuff dropped off, and he had a rough third
inning surrendering four unearned runs. Our defense really hurt us, but the big
guy seemed to be struggling all day.
We were down 6-2 but fought back to tie things up in the fifth.
Our momentum slammed to a halt as Ryan Mitchell homered to lead off the
sixth, and it was all downhill from there. The final score was 11-6, and we
faced a do-or-die situation in the nightcap.
Our bullpen had been stretched a little thin in the first game, so we really
needed a good outing from Joel Schmal, who was back in the rotation for his
second chance as a starter. Joel had just finished a torrid 10 days of school
work to pull up his GPA, and now he hoped to have the same success on the mound.
He didn’t disappoint.
Schmal threw a gem, retiring the first batter in each inning except the
sixth. On a hot, humid day, the big lefty from Indiana made it look easy as he
took a 6-1 lead into the ninth.
But then, things got interesting as our defense suddenly showed its dark
Joel hung tough, but he looked like Ali during the Thrilla in Manila. I swear
he was staggering as he induced what appeared to be a bases-loaded, game-ending,
groundball to second base. Game over…almost. The throw popped out of the first
baseman’s glove, bringing the winning run to the plate.
I threw nine complete games my senior year (relief pitching had yet to be
invented), so I really felt for Joel as I went to the mound and took the ball
from him. But, at this time of the year, more than any other, personal feelings
don’t matter as much as the team’s well being. Chris Eberhart came in and got
his first save, and Schmall got a big win.
Some clutch hitting by Hafer and Ozga, coupled with a great Arata bunt and a
triple by our defensive replacement Mario Duarte had increased our lead to 7-1
entering the ninth.
As things turned out, we needed every bit of that breathing room.
The A-Sun race for the tournament might be the most interesting in college
baseball. As of today, two teams (ETSU and Stetson) are tied for fourth and
fifth place, and four teams (Gardner-Webb, FAU, Lipscomb and Campbell) are tied
for sixth place. However, North Florida in second, is ineligible for the
tournament because of its reclassification to Division I. That moves Mercer to
second, ETSU (by virtue of the tie-breaker) to third, Stetson to fourth,
Gardner-Webb (by virtue of a tie-breaker) to fifth and FAU (by virtue of the
tie-breaker) is in sixth.
My friend Rusty Stroupe and his Gardner-Webb Bulldogs, share the same two
final opponents - Stetson and East Tennessee - with us. Because they won our
series, Gardner Webb would eliminate us if we finished tied for the sixth spot.
Our job is to fare one game better than the Bulldogs over the final six games.
We also must do at least as well as Lipscomb.
Whatever…my mind has trouble processing all this. We need to just win.
A big weekend in the FAU family
While we were busy winning our series with Lipscomb, a few other important
events occurred this weekend.
On Thursday, Tommy Murphy got called up to the Big Leagues by the Angels.
Tommy was the shortstop on our 54-9, 34-consecutive-win team in 1999. He signed
in 2000 and has been plugging away in hopes this day would come. Murph was never
known as the most optimistic person, but last fall he said to Coach McCormack,
“I know I can play this game.” After going 2 for 4, driving in a run and making
ESPN’s “Web Gems” in his first game, I’d say he was right.
Tommy was one of the most gifted athletes ever to wear an FAU uniform. He did
things on the field that amazed people. Yet, he had a shy smile, and an easy way
about him that made everybody like him. He’s now a switch-hitting outfielder,
and a proud father of two boys. He and Deborah have paid their dues and deserve
all the good that arrived this weekend.
Graduation rolled around on Friday, and three former players earned their
Chris Saxton and Derek Hutton were teammates for two seasons. Saxy came to us
from PBCC and was a solid pitcher for two years who plans to marry in the fall
and go into coaching.
I tried to talk him out of both.
Derek had a great career. As a freshman, he scored the winning run against
Alabama in the regional championship game. As a senior, he was our captain and
taught our guys a few things about class. His parents should be proud.
Jason Doherty saw limited time as a reliever last season, but hoped to be our
situational lefty this year. Unfortunately, just before the season started,
Jason’s dad was hospitalized and was out of work for quite some time. Mr.
Doherty is fine now and living in Tennessee, but Jason had to quit the team and
go to work. He taught us a few things about sacrifice.
I hope our guys were paying attention.
The other occasion Saturday was my daughter Maggie’s First Holy Communion.
Sitting in church watching Maggie and the rest of the little girls in their
beautiful white dresses and veils, and the little boys in black suits and white
ties, become practicing members of their religion was a moving experience. I
thought back to 1958, and saw myself in a white suit with white buck shoes, hair
greased back with O’Dell’s Hair Trainer, making faces in every picture my
parents took with our little black and white Kodak Brownie.
Why didn’t I take things as seriously as Maggie? As she walked down the
aisle, hands folded like Mother Teresa in prayer, I did the math on the next
time I’d see her in this same setting, white dress and all.
Will I live to be 75-80, so she doesn’t walk down that aisle alone?
Dolphin Dominance (5/3/06)
No Surrender (4/27/06)
And after all this Time We're Just Like all the Rest (4/19/06)
Trying to Rise Above (4/12/06)
Turnpike Tussle (4/6/06)
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)