Feb. 21, 2007
THE GLADES ROAD SHUFFLE...
Sparks fly on E Street when the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot
All the little girls' souls grow weak when the man-child gives them a double shot...
Glades Road in Boca Raton will never be confused with E Street in Belmar, New Jersey. They both lead to the ocean, and the comparison should really stop there. But last Saturday night, there were sparks flying on Glades as FAU faced off against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.
It was time to see if the 2007 Florida Atlantic edition was anything close to the ability that our 7-0 start would indicate. We were well aware that our early schedule wasn't going to win praise from the purveyors of the RPI, and that the 17th ranked Cowboys offered a better benchmark.
As has been the case all month, the wind continued to blow out to centerfield with a vengeance. The wind had been kind to ours and every other team's hitters in our previous games, but the OSU batters didn't need any help. They had about three guys whose '06 home run totals exceeded what we hit as a team last year. But we were counting on ace Mickey Storey to keep their bangers at bay.
OSU started hot on a frigid South Florida night, scoring two runs on two singles, a stolen base, and two errors. We hit the ball hard ourselves, with Mike McKenna's sac fly cutting the Cowboy lead in half. Two singles, a double, and a triple led the way for the Cowboys in the second. Everything they hit was hit hard, and our "man-child" looked like he might make an early exit.
But our "boy prophets" were hot. Danny Cook hit a two out, solo shot which helped keep our guys in the game, both mentally and on the scoreboard. There were definitely "sparks" flying in our dugout as our guys were battling to stay in a game where their pitcher was on the ropes. Mickey surrendered another run in the third, but what bothered Coach Fossas was that there was no adjustment on Storey's part as balls were being hit hard all night.
While we batted in the third, I approached Mickey in the dugout. He sat alone, staring straight ahead. When pitchers are being knocked around, it can be a psychological blow to them. They usually respond by trying to throw harder, or snap off a sharper breaking ball. But what Mickey needed to do was make the OSU hitters less comfortable in the box.
In the old days, that meant it was past time to knock down a couple of hitters. That was what had Coach Fossas upset. The game has changed, and what works in pro baseball isn't always the same in college. But I told Mickey he needed to make an adjustment or he wouldn't be around much longer. Our guys were battling their tails off against a good pitcher. We had answered their scoring each inning, with solid shots of our own. As we spoke, Will Block launched a scud to left. I told Mick that his teammates were doing their part; he needed to start carrying his share of the load.
I was clear that hitting a Cowboy batter or pitching up and in was not the approach we needed. Mickey needed to throw in at their knees, back them off the plate, and get them out of their comfort zone. It's tougher to hit when you get your feet moved now and then. Mickey nodded that he understood, and the sparks continued as Widlansky tripled in a run and McKenna doubled Robbie home.
We were down by one run as Storey went back out for the fourth inning.
He faced only two over the minimum as he carved up the Cowboys over the next four innings. Moving the ball in and out, Mickey racked up six more strikeouts, running his evening's total to 12. The "boy prophet" gave them "a double shot."
Meanwhile, our guys continued to battle, taking the lead in the fourth on a Widlansky single and an error by the right fielder. Our defense settled down as Mickey settled in and things looked good for the home side.
Chris Salberg relieved Mickey with two on and two out in the eighth.
As Salberg trotted in from the pen, the infielders surrounded Mickey and me on the mound. They all had something positive to add after I told Mickey that I was never prouder of him than at that moment. This was the best game he had ever pitched for us. He became a pitcher that night. Storey greeted Salberg with a hug and a "pick me up buddy", before leaving to a standing ovation.
Chris struck out two of the four batters he faced, earning his first save in the 1500th game in Florida Atlantic's 27 year history.
It was one to remember.