Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



March 14-15, 2006

KNIGHTS AND LIONS...

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 lbs 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 an MRI that showed a meniscus tear in his knee. There were too many NY and NJ 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 deficit.

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 Gherig doesn't help the Lions.

Thursday...

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 five 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 which 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 Andru 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, mid-week 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. KC

 

 

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