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sebaseball story on FAU

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sebaseball story on FAU

December 29, 2005

Mark Etheridge
SEBaseball.com Publisher

Last year Troy did it. This year Florida Atlantic will get the opportunity. What are we talking about? How about winning the Atlantic Sun championship in their last season in the conference. The Owls return six position starters and three of the top pitchers in the A-Sun. Head coach Kevin Cooney visited with SEBaseball.com last week recapping the fall and looking ahead to the upcoming season.

Florida Atlantic should reach another Regional this season
FAU sports two all-America candidates in sophomore starting pitcher Mickey Storey and outfielder/closer Mike McBryde. Those two aren't alone as Cooney has the makings of a potential Omaha sleeper. The Boca Raton, Florida school has been to Regional play six of the past seven seasons. What did their coach think of the team in fall drills?

"In the fall you never get the opportunity to play against outside opposition," Cooney explained. "It is tough to get a feel for your team. If you hit well, you worry about your pitching and if you pitch well, you worry about your bats. I do think we'll be good. I like our aggressive attitude offensively and we pitched well. Mickey Storey didn't throw a lot but we had good falls from guys who needed to."

Around the infield FAU returns Mike McKenna at first base, Alex Fonseca at shortstop, Robbie Widlansky at third, and Alex Silversmith behind the plate.

"Mike McKenna (.283/6/33) won the first base position last year and had a great year as a freshman," Cooney explained. "He was injured near the end of the year and missed the postseason. He had a great fall. He hit about .375 and led the team in RBI. He has good instincts and is fearless out there."

McKenna is backed by pro prospect Jordan Hafer.

"Hafer (.209/1/12) is a big kid who is now a junior. He has not yet exploded for us. He has shown flashes but needs to be more consistent. He has the ability. It is matter of confidence with him. He needs to be more aggressive. We need him to hit home runs. He could be a force in our lineup. He is a real important player for us."

Up the middle was expected to be a force a year ago but of the talented duo did not pan out. This year again the middle infield looks like a team strength.

"At second base we lost Derek Hutton (.182/0/14/12 sbs). He had a good career for us but last year he put up no offensive numbers for us. He was good defensively. I think we will have an upgrade offensively this year in Ovy Ramirez. He came in from St. Petersburg CC and should play a good defensive second for us. He should be a solid RBI guy who should hit 3 or 4 for us. He just doesn't get himself out.

"We have a senior at shortstop, Alex Fonseca (306/3/31/14 sbs). He is strong defensively and as good an athlete as you can expect to see," Cooney continued. "He has a strong, accurate arm. He made some errors but hardly any of them were throwing. He has the best shortstop arm I have seen. Sometimes he rushes plays in a hurry but he has improved on that. Offensively he is going to hit about .340 and can steal some bases.

The hot corner will be anchored by Widlansky, back for his third season as a starter.

"Widlansky (.317/7/39/14 sbs) was very good as a freshman before hitting the wall at the end of the year. Last year he did well again but tailed off late. His goal this year is to stay consistent all year."

Behind the plate FAU is in good shape with two experienced options.

"We have two catchers who will both play. Justin Martin (.302/1/10) and Alex Silversmith (.292/0/15) are both solid, college receivers. We will play the hot hand."

Cooney also listed sophomore shortstop Daniel Cook (353/0/3) as a player the staff likes. "He had a solid tournament and Regional and followed that with a great fall. We may have to find some place to play him. He plays an outstanding third and a decent second."

The outfield is talented and experienced.

"Centerfielder Mike McBryde (.370/5/40/35 sbs) can be one of the best two-way guys in the country," Cooney said. "He is a junior who can really run. He is learning to steal bases but he goes first to third as fast as anybody. In the outfield he has a cannon and covers ground. He hit .370 and he got himself out some. He is working on bunting because he is the kind of kid that beats out sacrifice attempts. He is also a relief pitcher for us. He is 6'3" and throws hard on a down angle. He made the move from starting pitcher to closer out of necessity. He is a high energy player who was dominant for 90% of the season."

In rightfield is another key player. Tim Mascia hit .400 two seasons ago and was projected to be the next star. He didn't live up to those expectations but gets another chance this spring.

"Mascia (.294/3/33/20 sbs) projects as the rightfielder," Cooney said. "He is a senior who had a rough year last year. I think he really suffered playing without a lot of lineup protection. I think before he kind of got lost in a lineup filled with guys like Rob Horst, Jeff Fiorentino, and Rusty Brown. We are hoping he returns to 2004 form when he hit .400."

FAU Media Relations

Kevin Cooney has built a nice program at FAU
Cooney said fifth year senior Jon Shapland is the leader in left after battling injuries the past couple of seasons. Other outfield/DH options include McKenna, Hafer, and Anthony Albano. Albano missed last season with a torn labrum. The bench provides experience and versatility.

The pitching staff should be very strong led by Storey early and McBryde late. "We have McBryde (2-2/3.11/10 svs) as our closer and we'll work backward from there. He is up there with the great closers in the country. We have a setup guy in Mike Crotta (5-4/6.02/3 svs) who did not have a good year last year. He is 6'7" and throws hard. He pitched well in the pen last last year and in the Cape this summer. He is a three pitch guy with a better breaking ball, a good changeup, and of course that fastball. We have another similar guy in Brandon Cooney - no relation. He is a 6'5" RHP with a good breaking ball. He would also be our fourth starter. Our main lefthander out of the bullpen will be Alex Pepe. He has a great curveball and decent velocity."

The starting rotation appears settled heading into the season despite a tough break.

"We got a big loss when Brandon Kloess (8-2/4.17) had Tommy John surgery and will be lost for the year. Our season turned when he solidified our Saturday spot. He went 6-1 down the stretch. Our Sunday guy will probably be South Suburban CC transfer lefthander Joel Schmall. He is a slow curveball pitcher. That curve has great bite. He is tough to hit. My teams have always had trouble hitting those kinds of guys. Now we have one.

"Our second spot will be another lefthanded pitcher, Chris Salberg (6-5/5.06). He really came on late last year. He beat UCF in the A-SUN tournament game that got us in a Regional."

That brings us back to the ace, Storey. Storey ranked fifth in the nation with a 1.70 ERA and is the only player in FAU's Division I history to post an ERA under 2.00. He recorded seven wins in eight starts to finish out the season. "Mickey Storey (10-1/1.70/7 svs), what do you do for an encore," Cooney said. "He was an All-American as a freshman and went to the Team USA tryouts. He is a fastball and curve guy and is developing a changeup."

Just what he needs: Another way to torture hitters.

FAU opens the season at home February 3 at home with a three-game set against Tennessee.
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sebaseball story on FAU

Not much of a story, more of a media guide piece, but I'm pretty damn excited about this season, don't know about you guys. Can't wait to see Anthony "Grandpa/Captain Lou" Albano take the field again after a year off.

I hope Kenny Gray gets some action too…could be this year's Storey.

This is the year we go all the way to Omaha.
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sebaseball story on FAU

Good to see so many familiar names back for the upcoming season. It looks like we could be heading for a huge season. With UCF and Troy gone, anything less than first place in the conference will be a massive disappointment in our final season. Only Stetson should pose a real threat and even they dont look they have one of their better teams this year. I cant wait for Tennesseee to come down and get this season started!!
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