Defense wins championships. Isn’t that the old adage? Well, the Stony Brook Softball team has definitely abided by that all year and it’s led them to a 15-2 record in the America East Conference. That record, which is the best conference winning percentage in the school’s short Division I history, gave them the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament, along with hosting rights. To Stony Brook, this is a monumental advantage over their opponents, as they have only lost one game at home all season, compiling a 16-1 record, including a current 12-game winning streak at University Field.
Their only loss on the season on their home field was back on March 22 in the second game of a double-header with in-state rival Albany. The Seawolves took the other two games in the series between what are now the top two seeds in the tournament.
Stony Brook’s big advantage this season has been their defense, and to be more specific, their pitching one-two punch of junior Allison Cukrov and sophomore Jane Sallen. Sallen had an off game in her last start of the season against Binghamton, letting up 10 runs on 10 hits. Other than that, she has been rock solid all season. When Sallen has gotten into trouble, it has been Cukrov backing her up and getting the wins. In the Binghamton game, Cukrov came in and retired all seven of the batters she faced to get the win for the Seawolves.
Cukrov posted a sub-2.00 ERA this season, which was good for the top-third of all pitchers in the country. She is also in the top 70 in strikeouts, and in the top 50 in hits allowed per seven innings.
Stony Brook’s first matchup on Thursday afternoon will be against the fourth-seeded UMBC Retrievers. Both games with them earlier in the year went down to the wire, with Stony Brook winning both 3-2 and 2-1.
The Seawolves came back from an early 2-0 deficit in game one for the victory, and game two saw them jump out 2-0 before holding on for the sweep.
Stony Brook’s two losses in conference play this season are against the two teams facing off against one another in the second first-round matchup, the Albany Great Danes and the Binghamton Bearcats.
Stony Brook took two of three from both of these teams, but the big difference here is that there are no series. The double elimination tournament this week will feature two games on Thursday, three games on Friday, two of which will be elimination, and possibly two games n Saturday.
It is crucial for Stony Brook to win their first game so that they do not have to play those extra games and can instead rest their players. A win will put them into the 11 a.m. spot against the winner of Albany and Binghamton. A loss means they will play the loser of this game and have to claw their way back into the tournament. If the Seawolves lose their first game, they would have to win four in a row if they want to hold onto the crown they earned a year ago.