June 7, 2004
EBB TIDE IN THE SEVENTH...
The Blue Wave rolled into the Coral Gables Regional hoping to wash through all the Hurricane preparations. But the ocean has an ebb and flow to it. My watch is made by Rip Curl, and has a gauge which shows the rise and fall of the tides each day. I looked at it in the seventh inning yesterday and it showed low tide; a painfully low tide.
We started off great, scoring two runs off JD Cockcroft. That was more runs than hits off him last year. But Miami came right back with two of there own in the top of the second, and two more by the fourth. We were down 4-2 and things weren't looking too good.
In the fifth, Fiorentino walked, Hutton singled, and Mascia laid down a perfect sac bunt and the runners were in scoring position. Rusty Brown drove in Fiorentino with a sac fly. Robbie Widlansky continued his hot hitting as he drilled a changeup off the parking garage in right. Woody now had three RBIs on the day and Florida Atlantic was back on top.
I forgot to mention the rain delay. What would our game be without one? Miami had runners on first and second none out in the fourth when the lightning detectors went off like the Fourth of July. Before you knew it we were taken by bus to the athletic department building in whose bowels we spent the next two hours.
What do you do in a pressure game during a rain delay? We ate bologna sandwiches and played "the initial game". It's a good game to pass time on bus rides. It's so simple but frustrating. Anyway, I think we played that game better than the rest of the ball game.
Back on the field, Eric San Pedro matched Woody's homer with a solo shot to left and we were tied again.
The Miami seventh inning seemed to last as long as the rain delay.
Randy Beam quickly got the first out, but a single sandwiched between two walks loaded the bases. We all knew this was the pivotal spot in the game. Our dugout was screaming for a double play ball, a pop up, or a strikeout. Beam was not as sharp as earlier, but he was getting one more hitter. He hit him, forcing in the go ahead run. I went to Craig Hughes for a right on right matchup with Jim Burt. I was a big Giants fan when his Dad helped win a Super Bowl, but yesterday the kid killed me. Burt greeted Hughes with a bases clearing double and we trailed by four.
As badly as I felt, I believed our hitters could get us back in this game. But the rest of the inning went single, double, single, triple, an out, and another double, before our fourth pitcher of the inning recorded the final out. Things looked bleak.
I gathered our players and gave them a few quiet thoughts about what we needed to do. Part of it included spoiling the celebration that was already in full swing. We gave it a run by scoring one and leaving the bases loaded on a long fly ball to left center.
The eighth signaled the death knell, as Miami scored four more runs. Now it was a matter of counting the rest of the season down one out at a time. We would not pull off the upset this day. Miami would again win a regional championship at home. Congratulations.
There is no team in college baseball with more games played at home, and probably none with a better winning percentage in those games. Beating them in a regional on their or any other field is rarely done. Some day the wheel will come round. I hope I'm there when it does.
On the plus side of my visits to Miami is the chance to see public address announcer Jay Rokeach. He's like a tenth player for them, but a great guy and a friend. He even slipped some Springsteen in for me.
I feel drained. Like every other coach that has just ended his season, it is a tough time. We had a great year but I still feel empty.
A large reason for that is because you realize some guys will never again be on the field for you. We had great seniors, who were quality people as well as good ballplayers. I enjoyed their company and being a part of this special time in their lives.
Nothing they do from this point will be quite the same. The experience of being a teammate and the work, struggles, and success are unmatched out there in the real world. Some of them will get the chance to play pro ball and possibly someone will make the big leagues. But it will be hard for them to match the bus rides, hotels, rain delays, Ryans Steakhouse meals, and all the many debacles that are part of traveling and competing with that band of brothers that form a college baseball team.
That's what keeps bringing me back for more. KC
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