April 7, 2005
LOST IN THE FLOOD...
Last night was the first of a two-game series against Florida International University. The Battle of I-95 has been a study in the absurdity that is college baseball. We always seem to have a close game and a blowout. Fortunately for us, things have gone well of late. Wednesday night was no exception.
When you win 18-5 in a game that featured a 16-run second inning, a game's turning point might be lost in the flood of offense. Not to us last night.
During Tuesday's practice, we spent a good portion of time working on controlling the opponent's running game. That aspect of our defense was missing last weekend, and with FIU having already stolen 90 bases as a team, we needed to be better. As a reminder, I always put a dot next to the name of any opponent with good running numbers on the lineup card. The FIU lineup looked like my Mother's Friday night bingo card at St. Catherine's. Everybody runs! We'll be facing the same type of offense from Belmont this weekend .Brandon Kloess has done a good job as a starter in our mid-week games, but his job against FIU was to keep as many as possible off base, and control the ones that do reach safely.
In the first inning, leadoff hitter Dennis Diaz singled, and led off first looking for his 25th steal of the season. But Brandon did a good job of being patient as Coach Roig kept varying our picks to first base. Diaz blinked first, as he broke early and Brandon threw over. Diaz was thrown out at second, by first baseman Mike McKenna. Brian Pullin then doubled to right and started dancing off second base. After a couple of premptory inside moves, Kloess delivered as Pullin broke for third. Catcher Justin Martin threw a strike to Robbie Widlansky and the scoring threat was squelched.
That was turning point #1.
We led off the bottom of the first with a McBryde single and a bunt hit by Fonseca. Before I could get a read on the FIU defense and their pitcher's time to home, Mike McKenna bounced into a 1-6-3 double play. "Big Mo" had switched back to the FIU dugout.
Robbie Widlansky stepped in against lefty starter Jon Banke. Woody has batted cleanup a couple of times, but never against a left-handed pitcher.Our lineup cards are kept in Coach Roig's office. When I got one Wednesday afternoon, I noticed he had scrawled his own version of a lineup on a piece of paper. It looked good except for Widlansky batting fourth against a lefty. But I stayed with George's choice despite my misgivings.
Woody made Coach Roig look smart when he ripped a fastball over the right field fence to give us a 2-0 lead, and turning point #2.
The next inning brought the flood.
What goes through coaches' minds during an inning that features two hit batsmen, five walks, 10 hits, and 16 runs? When you're on the good side of such an onslaught, you worry that your happy young people stay under control and do nothing to show up the opponent. You also feel for your opposing coach. At least I do. I've been in his shoes.
That sort of inning produces feelings of disbelief, as everything seems to go in the direction of the offensive team. Balls that other days are caught, are missed, pitches that are borderline are called balls, and flares are dropping everywhere. Some players start betting on who will make the first out. (Not really betting. Gambling is illegal in the NCAA) Tyler Stevens was our guy. He then had the pressure of not also making the second. He managed to get a hit. Phew!
When the waters recede and you survey the damage- an 18-1 lead, you start worrying that the offense will go into shutdown mode. It rarely fails. A pitcher comes in and makes it all look so easy. Where was that guy an hour ago?
Why would grown men want to coach?
The Battle of I-95 will resume May 11th at FIU. My gut tells me that one will be a nail biter.
MISTER I AIN'T A BOY, NO I'M A MAN
AND I BELIEVE IN A PROMISED LAND...
Yesterday I was throwing BP and watching as my 5-year old son Luke was steering our John Deere field groomer around the ballpark. I smiled as he sat in the lap of my oldest son Jim, who stopped by to say hello on his 25th birthday.
It seems like yesterday he was the five-year old sitting in my lap as I dragged the field. Now he's a college graduate applying to the Boca Raton Police Department. His life is on the move as he looks for the Promised Land.
I looked at the two of them and knew that I have lived to see the Promised Land.
Happy Birthday Jim. KC