June 2, 2003
Well, it's 1:00 pm, and instead of playing in the championship game at Miami, I've been playing with Luke and Maggie.
We got off to a good start on Friday, as Danny Core, Matt O'Brien, and Chris Pillsbury combined to hold down UF's hitters, and Brown and Fiorentino each hit home runs to give us a 4-3 opening game win. That was our fifth one run game in our last six outings. Derek Hutton, Evan Brannon, and Rob Horst also had big hits for us. UF had the tying, and go ahead runs aboard in the ninth, but Pillsbury hung in and got the last out on a grounder to short.
Miami won that evening against Bethune-Cookman to set the stage for the winner's bracket game with us the next day. It figured to be a good pitching matchup between J.D. Cockroft and Randy Beam, two similar style pitchers. The radar guns would be stored away, as both pitchers specialize in throwing strikes and changing speeds, rather than trying to blow fastballs past hitters.
Saturday's game proved to be all it was advertised, and then some. Cockroft kept floating up an assortment of changeups that corkscrewed our guys into the ground. He allowed only a single to Shaen O'Connor the entire day. Any other runners that reached via walks were erased by double plays.
Meanwhile, Beam was matching him with his own gem. Randy held tough with every threat, but Miami finally scored after two singles, a sacrifice bunt, and an infield out. That would prove to be enough as we never threatened and went down 1-0. In the era of "gorilla ball", it was amazing to see the game thrown by these two guys.
While Miami celebrated and gave interviews, we had to regroup and prepare to play Florida and extend the season. After being shut out like that, it was hard to believe we could generate enough offense in that second game. To make matters worse, UF jumped in front with two in the first. But, with the wind blowing out, I felt we had a chance if we just got started.
Derek Hutton gave us the spark when he crushed a three-run bomb over the fence in left that landed somewhere near Dixie Highway. Two hits later, it was Matt Pali's turn as he sent a laser into the palm trees in right and it looked like we were on our way.
This was not to be our day. UF immediately answered back, and before you knew it we were tied. I still felt good because our bullpen has done such a good job this year, but this was a different day.
The rest of the game was real ugly. The purists that reveled in the beauty of the first game's pitchers' duel, were subjected to the polar opposite in the nightcap.
It took us until the seventh to record our second scorless inning of the game. A succession of guys who had been so reliable throughout the season, came out of our pen and just couldn't get it done. We pulled within four in the eighth, but a grand slam in the bottom half iced it for Florida.
So it's over.
A season that started with such high expectations ends on such a down note.
This was a season that continued Florida Atlantic on its way to finding its place among the top baseball programs in the country. The relentless pursuit of excellence and consistency is what I will remember from this season. The 2003 Atlantic Sun Champions were an outstanding bunch of talented players who never quit. They never got too high or too low. They just kept going forward.
Some great competitors have worn their FAU uniform for the last time.
The seniors; Core, Callahan, Ingwell, Pali, Gilmore, O'Connor, Horst, and Cox were part of the greatest chapter in the history of Florida Atlantic baseball. They will be sorely missed.
Some of our juniors may not be back because of the draft, and they too will be missed.
But the beat goes on. We won't stop; and those that come after, will never fail those who came before.
On a personal note...my neighbor, and friend Tom Fields lost his battle with cancer Friday morning. I guess Tom figured he better get himself a good seat for the game. I'm glad we got a win for him, and thanks to all of you who have prayed for Tom and his family these past months.
Thanks also, to all of you who have supported us all year, and those of you
who have read these pages. It's my privilege to be around these young people
and share this part of their lives. KC