For the first time since its Cinderella run to the College World Series in 2012, Stony Brook baseball will be playing in the NCAA tournament. The Seawolves have come a long way since they were playing Division III games less than two decades ago.
Aided in large part by that trip to the College World Series in 2012, a rapid rise to national prominence for the baseball program and the general Athletics department has taken place, and that been huge for the school. If the Seawolves were to go deep into the postseason again, the players, personnel and University would all reap the benefits of this success.
Another run could mean a move out of the America East and into a larger conference for Stony Brook. Since they joined the conference in 2002, the Seawolves have become a baseball powerhouse. They have won four of the last eight conference tournaments and have been conference contenders in just about every season since joining the America East.
The recent successes of the basketball, lacrosse and softball teams are also indicative of a well-rounded program that has experienced considerable success outside of baseball. With the way they have contended, it will be interesting to see if the school opts to explore new conference options in the future. The Colonial Athletic Association, where the school already plays its football, may become a full-time possibility for the athletic program should the Seawolves receive an offer.
For the baseball players, increased national exposure could mean a better chance at being selected in the MLB Amateur Draft. After the College World Series season of 2012, the team experienced a surge in alumni playing professional baseball. Nine of the 28 players on that team were drafted after college. In the 45 years prior, only 11 Stony Brook baseball players had ever been drafted. Winning key games against national powerhouses like Miami and LSU conveyed to scouts that these small-program athletes were capable of playing against tough competition.
This year, there are several players whose job prospects would be greatly aided by tournament success. Senior infielder Cole Peragine, the lone player remaining from the 2012 team, could find himself in somebody’s farm system come the end of the season. As a four-year starter, he posted a .302 average this season after posting similar numbers in his previous three seasons. He already has a decent chance of getting drafted after this season, but a solid showing in the NCAA tournament would only help his cause.
Peragine is most likely the only major candidate with the chance to get drafted this year, as no non-senior has ever been drafted out of Stony Brook. However, junior outfielder Jack Parenty and sophomore utilityman Casey Baker have both had very strong seasons, batting .359 and .322 respectively. They could become solid professional prospects upon graduation if they can make a positive impression on scouts in the national spotlight this weekend.
Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk could also get offers from larger schools if Stony Brook makes it past the regional portion of the tournament. Senk, the 2012 National Coach of the Year, has been with the Seawolves since they were a Division III team in 1991. He stayed with Stony Brook despite the national attention from the College World Series and is under contract until 2017.
Senk has been a staple in the school’s flourishing Athletics Department and is arguably the most accomplished coach of any sport in Stony Brook’s history. While it would be difficult to imagine him coaching elsewhere next season, there will always be a demand for coaches as accomplished as Senk.
Making it past the NCAA Regionals will be an uphill battle, but Stony Brook baseball has been successful in this position before. Should lightning strike twice in the same spot, it will be one of the biggest triumphs for not only the baseball team or the Athletics program, but for the entire university. It would indicate that the 2012 College World Series berth was not a fluke, and that the Seawolves are capable of becoming a national athletic powerhouse.