Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



April 25, 2005

TROJANS AT THE GATE...

The last time I saw Bobby Pierce and his kids from Troy, was in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Tournament last May. That day worked out great, as we exploded offensively, while Will Mann tossed a gem, to win our first A-Sun tournament championship.

One year later, the tide has turned, and Troy is coming to town as the first place team in the Atlantic Sun Conference. At 27-10, with only three conference losses, the Trojans aren't sneaking into town in a wooden horse- they're proudly riding right through the front gate, led by four big home run hitters, the NCAA's stolen base leader, and two of the conference's best starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, the Blue Wave of FAU has been riding at high tide for the past four games. Will that storm surge continue, and wash away the intruders from Troy? That's the question this weekend.

"I'm as nauseous as I've ever been. I have a terrible headache. My head is pounding. I feel like throwing up and I'm having trouble swallowing. And the beauty of it is, you want to feel like this every day." - Tony La Russa as quoted in the book 3 Nights In August, by Buzz Bissinger.

There are reasons for the stomachs of both coaching staffs to be churning like the Atlantic in a tropical storm.

From the Troy standpoint, the apprehension could revolve around a great record, being in first place, but knowing your schedule hasn't been the most challenging, and you will be facing the first of the Florida Four as you play out the remainder of your conference schedule. Someone in the conference office must not like Troy- the last four series against FAU, JU, UCF, and Stetson? The Trojans' season really starts tonight.

On the flip side- FAU's season just may come down to the next two weekends. Troy, followed by UCF, will determine if we will be in the race for a decent seed in the tournament, or fighting the last two weekends merely to gain one of the last of six spots in the conference post-season.

Something's gotta give.

My mouth is already dry. It's only 2:30. KC

SATURDAY...
Mickey and Mikey...

It's no secret that our starting pitching will be the key the rest of the way, but especially against a team like Troy. They have a lot of weapons, with a combination of good power and speed, and two solid starters.

Last night, we got another good performance from Mickey Storey. This kid may be a freshman, but he pitches like a veteran. Mick seems to get touched up a little each time, but has the ability of regrouping and shutting down an opponent.

Last night followed that pattern as Troy got to Mickey for two runs in the second and one in the third. But Storey then settled in as we battled to score a run in the third and another in the sixth. Meanwhile goose egg after goose egg was being thrown up by Mickey.

After Troy batted in the seventh, we were down 3-2. Brian Lipman had driven in our second run against his former school, and we needed more soon. Alex Silversmith reached on an error, and McBryde was safe on a bunt single. Robbie Widlansky then doubled down the right field line to tie the game at three. Jon Shapland doubled to left center, driving in two more. Lipman then drilled our third two bagger of the inning into left center and we were up 6-3.

The hope of saving McBryde for a start went by the boards as we looked at Mickey's pitch count, and the importance of winning the first game of a big series, and then Mikey to the mound. Three batters later, Mike had his seventh save and we had a W.

As I walked to my truck later, I looked at Coach Roig and said, " Now I remember why I love this job."

SUNDAY...
NOT EVEN KLOESS...

We all felt great when the day started. Last night's win gave the team a shot of confidence going into the middle game against another tough Troy pitcher. We had shown heart and determination last night to battle back against pitcher Landon Brazell, and we felt good about having Brandon Kloess on the mound today.

Brandon had been real consistent in his previous starts, and I felt he was a good matchup for the Troy hitters.

Things aren't always as they seem. Brandon struggled with his control in the second and Troy responded with as fine an example of small ball as you'll ever see.

The inning started with consecutive walks, which set the wrong tone. A Troy bunt single loaded the bases. After a two run single, another bunt and an error by the pitcher juiced the sacks. A sac fly drove in another, and then an error at first on an attempted pickoff brought home another Trojan. Two more singles made the inning a five run debacle, and we were in a hole.

It was more of the same in the Troy fourth as another five spot was added to the board. Meanwhile, Brent Adcock was more than holding up his end of the Troy 1-2 pitching punch. He's got as good stuff as any pitcher we've seen this year.

The final was 15-5.

When I got home, my son Jim was waiting. As we sat on the porch, I said "Now I remember why I hate this job."

SUNDAY...
PAYBACKS ARE A FEMALE DOG...

Last year we defeated Troy by a pretty big score in the conference championship game. Today they returned the favor.

As I pulled into the parking lot this morning, I saw the three flags on the press box blowing straight out. Not the direction I hoped to see. Those guys don't need any help, but we were starting a fly ball pitcher, and the wind would be a factor.

But wind, or no wind, it became a battle.

Troy again jumped out to a big lead. We were staring at a seven-run deficit, as we batted in the third. Justin Martin got us started with a one out double. McBryde beat out a groundball to third as Martin advanced. Tyler Stevens singled on an 0-2 pitch in his eyes to score Martin and send McBryde to third. After Fonseca scored Mac on a sac fly, and Lipman walked, Widlansky singled, sending Lip to third and scoring Tyler. McKenna then reached on an infield single as Lipman scored our fourth run and we were right back in it.

We scored two more in the fourth on Bobby DiLoberto's solo homer, and Tyler's safety squeeze RBI. But we stranded two runners and now trailed 8-6.

Things looked great, and our dugout was electric. You could feel the swell of emotion as the momentum kept building for us.

Then disaster struck in the fifth. Six runs, seven hits, one error, and two left on base, is how the line reads, but it was worse than that. It was one of those nightmare innings that the baseball gods like to inflict on teams every now and then. No wonder there are so many alcoholics in coaching.

The rest of the day was tough to take. A final of 19-9, with four ninth inning runs crushing any hopes for a comeback, cemented the series win for Coach Pierce and his boys.

If there is a better all round team than Troy in our conference, I don't look forward to seeing them. These guys are legit. I know Bobby's real proud of how they came back from their loss on Friday. They were back with a vengeance. Our guys battled, but nothing seemed able to stop them.

What's next for us?

Well, the schedule offers no comfort- UCF next weekend, followed by Georgia Tech. But I always believe that the greater the challenge, the bigger the opportunity. We'll regroup this week in practice and get ready for next week. KC

 

 

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