Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



March 26, 2005

A GOOD FRIDAY...

When I saw this year's schedule had us playing Easter weekend, I called Stetson coach Pete Dunn. He and I had been two of the strongest proponents of the A-Sun move to a three-game series for conference play. We argued against the emotional and physical toll taken by doubleheaders, and the frustration with playing seven inning games in college baseball.

The resultant compromise allowed teams to play three nine inning games over three days or two. If one school insisted on two days, the doubleheader would be comprised of nine inning games.

So I found it ironic as I offered Pete the option of playing the doubleheader to avoid playing on Easter Sunday. Stetson had been a religious affiliated school and I assumed their policy would preclude playing on Easter. Pete accepted the offer to play over two days, but not because of school policy.

Pete lost his Mom in the off season. She had lived in nearby Delray Beach where Pete was raised. Mrs. Dunn was a teacher who influenced many a Delray youngster. Pete's father had passed on years ago, leaving him the head of the family. This year, more than ever, Pete wanted to be home.

Family seems to matter a great deal more as we get older.

One of the great regrets in my life is the lack of commitment I made to my own parents as a young adult. We all leave the nest and start our lives, independent of our parents, and sure that we know everything there is to know about life. Our new lives are filled with dreams and drive to create our own legacy. Once you have children, your perspective changes. In my case it has made me thank God each day for my parents, and the life they tried to give me. I also ask their forgiveness each day, for not being the son they deserved.

So here we are, playing a doubleheader on Good Friday. From a religious standpoint, that's probably worse than playing on Easter.

The day was long and hot, filled with all the good and bad of college baseball. We won the first, 9-7, and Stetson beat us in the nightcap, 6-5.

This weekend is a battle of two conference powers facing some early season questions. Can Stetson's pitching measure up to the great offense they bring to each game? Is FAU's offense as bad as the statistics lead us to believe? Both teams are always in the running for a conference championship and a regional appearance. Is this year different?

I don't know what questions got answered yesterday. Their relief pitching, notably Ryan Heacox was great, and our offense was solid. The third game could be a barnburner.

GAME ONE...

We jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the opener. McBryde singled and Tim Mascia did the same. Fonseca drove in both and scored on a throwing error. But Stetson battled back a little at a time and led 5-3 in the fifth. Robbie Widlansky's two-out, two-RBI single, preceded by two key Stetson errors, gave us a 6-5 lead.

Chris Johnson drove in a run in the sixth to tie it, and the Hatters took a 7-6 lead in the 7th on Shane Jordan's bunt single. We needed to keep scoring.

Tim Mascia has had a rough year so far, but he led off the bottom of the 7th with a game-tying home run to right. In the dugout, I asked him if he was smiling running the bases. "All the way around, I couldn't stop."

Freshman Mike McKenna has been a bright light in the darkness of our offensive struggles. We had the bases juiced and a 3-1 count on Mike. He never looked at me for the hit or take sign. I said to Fossas "this freshman's pretty comfortable...not even looking 3-1." Whack! The lead was 9-7 as McKenna cruised into second with a game winning double. "What do you want him to look for?", said Tony.

Storey got a double play to end the game and collect his seventh save.

GAME TWO...

Stetson scored two in the first and another in the third to take a 3-0 lead. Salberg was struggling a little, but we came back to score two in the bottom of the third. Actually we scored three, but the umpire ruled that Fonseca was out for missing third base enroute to home plate.

The Hatters kept coming, but in the sixth, we took a 5-4 lead as Tyler Stevens hit a bases loaded sac fly, followed by Mike McBryde's two-run single.

The dangerous John DeStefano was up in the seventh with a runner at second base. I didn't want to pitch to him, but I wasn't about to intentionally walk the go-ahead run. Bad decision. On a 1-2 count we thought Kloess threw strike three, but we didn't get the call. Our plan was to throw a two seamer away and hope he walks or rolls over on one. But these are kids, not pros, and the next fastball was in the red zone and then in our bullpen. Destefano's home run gave Stetson a one-run lead they held onto despite one of the greatest performances I've seen by Mike McBryde.

In the eighth, Mike trotted in from center field with one out and runners at first and second. He struck out the next two hitters on a combination of 90-mph heaters and a nasty curveball. Mike's playing with a fractured thumb. And has thrown only one bullpen in the past month.

Chris Johnson led off the Stetson ninth with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. We brought the infield in as Destefano came to the plate with six hits and five RBI on the day. Mike was feeling the heat and the humidity of a long day, playing two games in the field, running the bases, and now staring down the biggest RBI guy of the day. Three batters had a chance to score Johnson. McBryde struck out all three. Silversmith blocked some nasty curveballs and had two assists to get us to the ninth trailing by only one.

McBryde's work wasn't over. After the first out, Mike hit a groundball to short, Bocock made a nice play, but McFly beat the throw. He looked a little out of breath, but I gave him the green light to steal anyway- safe at second base. Alex Silversmith was up and swinging a hot bat. He ripped a ball towards second that looked like a game tying single, but Brandon Paritz made the play of the night diving to his right, and threw out Silver by a step. McBryde was at third catching his breath as Fonseca flied out to right, ending a long day.

HOLY HEACOX...

Holy Saturday dawned hot and humid. Neither team took batting practice; everyone was a little drained from last night.

We jumped in front as Widlansky continued his hot hitting. Woody had a bases loaded single in the first, followed by Jonathan Shapland's hit to give us a 4-0 lead. But nothing is easy against the Stetson lineup.

Will Mann had an umpire with a tight strike zone- not a help when you plan to pitch carefully to good hitters. The first five innings seemed to take forever. Will kept battling, but Stetson tied it in the fifth.

The winning run scored in the Hatter eighth, as speedster Shane Jordan was called safe at first on a disputed call that would have ended the inning. There's no instant replay in baseball, but I would've thrown a flag to challenge the call.

The rest was Ryan Heacox. He held us to no runs by getting some huge outs in the eighth and ninth. The kid picked up a save and a win in the last two games, throwing 7 2/3 innings in three games over a 25 hour period.

So what did the two teams learn from the weekend?

You'll have to ask Coach Dunn for his take, but I feel better about our club, despite losing such a hard fought series. There were some real encouraging things to consider as we take tomorrow off and consider something far more important. KC

 

 

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