May 24, 2003
"...I'll be on that hill cause I can't stop. I'll be on that hill with all I've got."
Those lines refer to a guy that lives to race his car in the "darkness at the edge of town", but I always envisioned it to be about someone born to pitch, standing on the mound giving all he's got. Someone like Danny Core last night.
Thanks to the hitting of Pali, Brown, Orton, Cox, and Pali, we had a 3-2 lead entering the eighth in an elimination game against Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks were pecking away, and after a strikeout, had runners at first and third. Danny was bearing down, trying to get a ground ball. Hutton broke toward second, fielded a hard shot, tagged second and whipped an off balance throw in the dirt to first. Rusty reached out and scooped it backhanded and we were still in front.
A major league manager has it much easier than a college coach. If he has a lead in the ninth, he calls on his closer. Simple. But in college, you sometimes are dealing with other factors. There were many considerations in our dugout last night. But, despite having a rested, quality closer, my gut kept coming back to keeping a champion senior out there for the finish. Danny made his warmup tosses and we were ready to go.
The first two batters singled... great. As we signaled in our bunt defense, I told George to call down to the pen and tell Pillsbury that he'd be in after the bunt. When the JSU hitter failed to bunt successfully and struck out, I decided it was still Danny's game. A left-handed pinch hitter was the next strikeout victim. The JSU people went nuts, thinking the called third strike was a ball. Core was at the center of the storm, but calm as can be as he looked at the last batter. Standing on that hill is a lonely thing. It takes a special type to excel in this situation. The hopes and dreams are on your shoulders. That is basically what I told Danny in my visit to the mound. I reminded him that I was asking a lot, but he was a senior and big enough to put us on his back. Strike Three! Game over. FAU has another day to play.