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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

Feb. 18, 2003

Eastern Michigan Goes Home Happy!

I am really tired of opposing coaches earning milestone victories against us. Two years ago Fred Decker's 800th, last year, Jay Bergman's 1,000th, Sunday, Roger Coryell's 400th. All great guys, but we lost!

Eastern came in and played real well to take two out of three from us last weekend. So much for being ranked! As expected, we sank like a stone. What came so hard disappeared so easily. It will now take a great deal for us to return to a good spot in any of the polls. Voters are much more forgiving of big name programs from major conferences when they stumble. I don't expect it to be so for us.

Things started pretty well Friday night as Randy Beam was on top of his game from the start. Through five innings, he had struck out five, walked one, and held a good offensive team scoreless. We chose to go to the bullpen at that point. We really need to sort out the pitchers out there and define some roles. As I have said, we have some real talent in our pen, but most of it is young and unproven. I am sure that Randy wasn't happy about the decision, but he knows what we are trying to do. In junior college last year, Beam threw around 150 innings. His removal from a game with a shutout intact must have been a little different for him. It isn't something that I felt good doing, but we need to learn some things.

The bullpen proceeded to surrender six runs over the next four innings. We were fortunate that Fiorentino homered to ice the game and help us relax a bit in the ninth. Cox and Horst had good nights. It looked like the start to a good weekend. Little did we know.

The next night was a disaster. We didn't pitch or hit very well all night. Their lefthander did a great job keeping us off balance all game long. Meanwhile, the leadoff hitter in each inning reached base safely in all but the seventh for Eastern. That's not an easy way to win.

We had a short-lived lead at one point as Mike Murray got his first two FAU RBI's. I've known Mike since he was a little kid spending each summer day with Jim and Jeff at my house or our camp. It's good to see him finally in an FAU uniform.

The lead never held and Eastern went on to hand us a bad beating. Nothing good to talk about after that one. I didn't like our approach to the game. I don't know that we really came to play. It's been a long time since I have felt that way. It was especially tough coming at home.

Sunday was equally frustrating, although in a different way.

We made adjustments at the plate and hit the ball much better. Problem was that the ball was usually hit right at an Eastern Michigan player. We had chances to win in each of the last three innings, but we left the bases loaded twice and the tying run at 2B to end the game. The Eastern closer did a great job, but we had some real good hitters up at all the right times, and didn't get it done.

Travis NeSmith got his first start after some muscle tightness had delayed his season. I thought he pitched real well. Travis should have been out of the game with no runs. He got an apparent inning ending double play ball, but the runner threw up his arms and hit Fonseca's forearm which prevented Alex from getting off his throw. We all thought interference should have been called, but the guy in blue disagreed. That's odd.

Matt O'Brien did a great job in relief. He had an outstanding fall and his preseason was good. Matt is a valuable asset as a starter and a guy that can relieve. This could be a big year for him.

Now we need to rebound and be ready for Josh Banks and FIU on Wednesday night. I hope we can get some things straightened out quickly. We have some guys really scuffling at the plate. Our lineup is pretty solid except at the top. We haven't had anyone grab the leadoff spot and flourish yet. Maybe Wednesday will get it rolling.

Some Sad News

Greg Risko is a good friend and a big fan. He is usually seated behind homeplate in his wheelchair next to his wife Veronica. Greg's had a rough time since November. He was bedridden for a long stretch of that time, and has had two surgeries. He managed to be here for the Bethune series and was happy to be at the ballpark again. Today his father, Frank Risko passed away. Frank was taken to the hospital in December while Greg was in for his first operation. They were on the same floor when I visited. Greg needed rest, so they didn't share a room. Frank was released but was not doing real well, but his heart attack was unexpected and I am sure a big shock to Greg. Keep him in your prayers.

A pitcher died yesterday in Fort Lauderdale. The Baltimore Orioles will join the wife and family of 23-year old Steve Bechler in wondering how a young life with such promise gets snuffed out. Bechler had gotten called up to the majors last year, married and was awaiting the birth of his first child in April. Now he is the subject of speculation over what may have contributed to his tragic death.

Players today are all looking for something to make them bigger, stronger, faster, thinner; whatever needs to be done to help them reach their dreams. Despite the documented problems with the ingredients in some of these supplements, a lot of kids think they are bulletproof. They are not. Pray for Steve's wife and unborn son. KC



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