Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



March 26, 2004

BYE BYE BUCKEYES...HELLO DOLPHINS...

Tuesday and Wednesday we managed to beat Ohio State 6-4 and 7-6. It was a great midweek matchup of two good teams. I think Ohio State will be real solid once they get outside on a consistent basis. Their defense is real athletic and they have excellent team speed. We saw three of their top pitchers and a bunch of left-handed relief pitchers. Coach Todd really has the chance to get some good late game matchups with all those lefties. They also have a potential first round pick who should be ready to pitch soon. I think they'll be a solid tournament team with that pitching and speed.

We got a solid effort from Jason Costello in his second start of the season. He kept the OSU hitters off stride while striking out six over five innings. I think he hit a wall in the seventh so we went to Allen Knight.

We had scored three runs thanks to the bottom of the order getting on base and Horst and Mascia driving those guys home. There were 29 mph winds blowing out to right, and Jeff Fiorentino capitalized with a high fly ball that just kept going higher and higher. You could almost see a little wind icon puffing it along until it reached our bullpen and we led 4-2.

An unearned run in the eighth tightened things up, but Tim Mascia came through again with a two run, bases loaded single for our final margin of victory.

Wednesday night brought Will Mann to the mound looking to get off to a better start than he did last Wednesday against Rutgers. Will did just that as he held Ohio State scoreless until a sixth inning defensive debacle led to five runs and Will's exit. He deserved much better.

We scored seven runs in the fourth inning. The curious thing at that point was that starting pitcher Josh Newman recorded all his outs of the game via strikeouts. We k'd nine times in the first three innings. His streak would have ended in the fourth, but they misplayed a sacrifice bunt and dropped two popups. I don't recall ever seeing someone give up seven runs through three plus and strike out every hitter he retired. It's just another reason for rampant alcoholism among baseball coaches!

Chris Saxton relieved Will Mann and did a solid job over the last three innings to record his sixth save of the year. We didn't want to go that long with Saxy, but he had thrown only sixteen pitches heading into the ninth.

The ninth got a little exciting as Ohio State got two quick singles. I went to the mound to be sure we were all clear on our defense with the tying run on first base. We had played so poorly, it looked like everyone was apprehensive.

I told our kids I didn't think they'd sacrifice to tie the game. That's the old school philosophy of not playing to tie on the road. But this is college and you never know. I was going over our options when the home plate ump came out and said to break it up and get going. I told him I wasn't making a pitching change or stalling for time; heck, I wanted that game to end as quickly as possible.

He told me again to get going and now, one of my pet peeves kicked into overdrive. Where the heck did anyone have to go? The game was less than three hours old, thanks to our nine k's, Ohio State is spending the night, and we live here! What is the problem with taking an extra minute or two and be sure your kids are straight on the plan at hand? Man, I hate that!

As we walked away from the mound, the ump and I continued our discussion. All he would say is "We've got to go." I still don't know where, but as I demonstratively looked at my watch, he warned me, in the unmistakable tone that my Mom used to use on me to signal that she'd had enough of my wise mouth, "Don't show me up!" I figured a bee line to the dugout was good strategy at that point.

Saxton survived a fielder's choice at second, a run scoring single, and a heart stopping fly ball to the warning track in right. Remember last night's wind? Chris went to 2-2 on the next hitter who challenged my blood pressure by fouling off about a hundred pitches. The 101st was a fastball for strike three. Now we can go home!

The Dolphins...

Tonight starts the Florida Death March. We face all three state rivals in consecutive conference weekends. Whose idea is this?

Jacksonville has become a big rival for us. We always have hard fought games and I expect this weekend to be the same.

FAU, Stetson, and UCF have gotten off to better starts and received more media attention. It seems that each year the JU guys start slowly and really begin to turn it on at this point of the season.

We are changing our rotation this weekend. Mike Crotta will star Friday night, followed by Randy Beam and then Matt O'Brien. At first blush it looks crazy, and hey, maybe it is. But we think that O'Brien followed by Crotta over a doubleheader day is too many innings of similar pitchers. Both guys are big righthanders who throw hard with a good change of pace. By inserting Beam and his left-handed, softer offerings, the opposing hitters have less chance to dial in on the same velocity.

Why Crotta first? O'Brien is having a great year and is a senior. Good question. I have an answer, which is only correct if we win. "Sic Semper Coaches!" My apologies to John Wilkes Booth.

It has to do with using a good bullpen in the first game and lessening the temptation to keep Beam in for eight or nine innings each start. I'm not sure I understand it, so that's all I have to say. KC

PS There is a great preview of both series on Southeasternbaseball.com. It's written by some guy whose screen name is Longball U. It's on the Southeastern Forum. You should check it out. I don't know where this guy lives or what games he actually sees, but he's got his finger on the pulse of A-Sun Baseball. He also is a talented writer. Some of his earlier stuff was hilarious. Check it out. KC

 

 

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