In fact, it wasn’t tangible at all. To bounce back by winning three straight took the players putting down their cellphones, erasing outside distractions and having fun.
“That’s the bad downside of playing sports in this era: everything is so accessible and people are immediately texting them ‘good play,’ ‘bad play,’ ‘keep it up,’ ‘you’re in trouble,’ so they don’t ever have a chance to process on their own,” FAU coach John McCormack said.
The instant reaction from friends and family amplified over FAU’s losing streak. And catcher Pedro Pages said his team played tighter as a result.
Pages admitted it’s “hard” to ignore outside comments and play loose while struggling. But he said doing exactly that was the only way FAU could move past its slump.
“It’s tough, because you’re coming from a six-game losing streak,” infielder Francisco Urbaez said. “But once you come out here, you need to put that all that away and just go out there and have fun, do what you do – you’ve been doing this for your whole life – and do your best.”
FAU’s “best” led to a nightmarish weekend for Monmouth. The Owls swept their home series against the Hawks, scoring 28 runs in three games.
The box score numbers were gaudy, but that’s not what’s important to McCormack. Plenty of teams can get hot offensively. The great teams, in McCormack’s eyes, are the ones that stick together through the lows of the season, blocking out the external noise that comes with them.
“What I judge them on is different than what their friends or family judge them on,” McCormack said. “So, you just got to keep preaching to them, because once they leave the cocoon here, they have so many outside influences: girlfriends, friends, coaches, all sorts of parents; everybody has an opinion. When we’re in here, we hope that we have a unified opinion.”
FAU jumped ahead of Monmouth early all weekend, scoring at least two runs in the first inning in each of their three matchups. McCormack said the sooner his team can play from in front the better.
“The team that scores first usually ends up winning,” McCormack said. “So, it’s good to get out to a good start. It’s really hard mentally to be chasing the other team.”
Outside of a shaky second inning (four earned runs allowed) in Sunday’s game, starting pitcher Mike Ruff was excellent. Ruff gave up only five hits and a walk over seven innings, fanning nine.
“I thought Mike Ruff threw exceptionally well,” McCormack said. “This is the best he’s thrown in an FAU uniform.”