April 2, 2006
CRIMSON AND CAMELS...
Two of my favorite coaches came to town this week.
Joe Walsh always has the Crimson of Harvard at the top of the Ivy League, and has had some good clubs give teams fits in the NCAA tournament. Chip Smith is the winningest coach in Campbell University's history. His teams are always hard charging and scrappy- pretty much the same as Chip.
We started the week a game under .500 with a 13-14 record, not exactly where we thought we'd be as March segued into April. But, we are where we are, and our job is to plug away, get over .500, and make a run for the Conference tournament.
Senior Will Mann got the call on the mound against Harvard. Will has done a good job as our mid-week starter, and he came through again, pitching seven solid innings as our bats matched Will's performance to give us an easy 11-1 win.
It's always a shame that one team's good fortune comes at the expense of another- but that's life. Joe Walsh is a competitor and hates to lose, but he's working to get his guys ready for the Ivy League race. A mid-week loss in Florida is tough, but it helps develop guys for the games that will really matter.
Friday night was the start of a big conference series, one with a lot at stake. Campbell and FAU sat near the bottom of the league standings with identical 3-6 records. A series win was crucial, and a sweep was the goal.
To sweeten the pot, I threw out an added incentive.
Our guys absolutely hate study hall, but I see it as a necessary evil. Is there a lot accomplished there? I don't know, but it does force some guys to sit down and think about their schoolwork throughout the week. Players can earn their way out with the appropriate GPA, but for some, it becomes a way of life.
So, with three weeks of school left before exams, I offered this choice: sweep and study hall is over for the year; lose and it continues.
Deal??... or... No deal???
Everyone took the deal, and Mickey Storey took the mound.
Mickey really hates study hall. He hates it enough, that inning after inning, Friday, he retired the Camel batters without any hits. The problem was that we weren't doing much better.
Everybody was aware of the no-no, but the dugout observed the time honored baseball tradition of not discussing it. Our guys out in the bullpen went against tradition and threw it out there in the fifth.
With one out in the eighth, Will Block was batting and I was dreaming. "Just get a pitch you can yank, Will, and Mickey will shut `em down in the ninth." Just as I chased that thought out of my mind, Block unloaded and dropped a scud in the Campbell bullpen. We added an insurance run and the rest was up to Storey.
The first batter mercifully swung at the first pitch and hit a long flyout to center.
The second out was a strikeout-one more to get.
Mickey got a quick 0-2 count.
I stepped out of the dugout and looked at the stands. Everyone was on their feet except my neighbor Greg Risko- he's in a wheelchair, but he looked like he was sitting at attention.
A groundball to Arata at short, and a close play at first...FAU's first no-hitter in 12 years was in the books.
I told the guys they needed two more wins and we would burn their study hall time cards at home plate on Monday.
We came out determined in the opener as Jordan Hafer hit a three run homer into the tennis courts behind our bullpen to give us a 6-3 lead. But Chip's guys kept battling and it was 6-5 in the sixth. We got our first two runners on in the sixth, and lefty Tim Mascia was up against the Campbell lefthander.
The situation was clear- a nice sacrifice bunt would move the runners over for Ovy Ramirez and Alex Silversmith-two right handed hitters.
But over his three and a half years at FAU, most of Tim Mascia's home runs have come against lefthanders. Might as well roll the dice and see what happens. Boom- a three run shot off the scoreboard and the game was ours.
Doubleheaders are tough. It's a long day, and a challenge to bounce back from a loss or to finish off a team you have just beaten. The Camels bounced back and the nightcap went to them, 7-3. Quinn LeSage did a great job of keeping our hitters off balance all day, and a late rally in the ninth fell short.
Study hall continues.
Three out of four in a week is an improvement over the way we have been playing thus far, but the failure to get a conference sweep really hurts. It's a two game swing in the standings during a conference race that may go right down to the wire.
I drove home at 8:30 pm Saturday, as the Campbell guys boarded their bus.
I was eating breakfast with Maggie and Luke at 8:30 am this morning as the Camels were probably pulling into Buies Creek, NC.
You gotta love college baseball! KC