From 295 down to 64: the Road to Omaha is about to begin.
Texas Christian University’s Charlie and Marie Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas will be the site on Friday afternoon where the No. 3 Stony Brook Seawolves gets their first taste of NCAA Tournament action since 2012, facing off against the No. 2 North Carolina State Wolfpack.
“We are extremely excited to be here,” Stony Brook manager Matt Senk said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “North Carolina State has been playing great, especially at the end of the season coming into the regional.”
That is indeed the case, as the Wolfpack were the victors in 13 of their last 16 games, including a run to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, before losing to Florida State.
This run in the ACC Tournament included a win over the Miami Hurricanes, who were selected as the No. 5 overall seed in this year’s edition of the Road to Omaha.
“I am the one guy that thought this club was good all year long. I really like this club, and I really enjoy watching them play,” Wolfpack manager Elliott Avent said. “This was a club that could have fallen apart with as many young guys we were playing at a time.”
Before getting red-hot, this team was ice-cold, losing nine of 12 games including a series to in-state rival North Carolina.
“In 27 years as a head coach, I don’t remember any ball club that had the leadership this ball club has displayed to overcome that when things could have fallen apart,” Avent said in high praise of his team.
He will send out junior right-handed pitcher Curt Britt to start the opening game in Fort Worth on Friday. Britt has only started three games in the whole season due to a multitude of problems.
“He’s one of the toughest competitors there is, and that’s why he started the Louisville game, and that’s why he’s starting the game against Stony Brook,” Avent said.
He comes in with a 2.34 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched, while letting opposing batters bat .216 against him.
Sophomore lefty pitcher Daniel Zamora will throw for the Seawolves, starting the first game of the NCAA Tournament as he did the first game of the America East Tournament.
“I’m going to do what I have done all year,” Zamora said confidently. “Cole [Peragine] calls the pitch, I throw the pitch and the defense makes the play. Keep it simple.”
Zamora enters the matchup with a few more starts under his belt, tallying a 7-3 record over the season with a 3.03 ERA, but coming off a very strong tournament outing.
He threw eight solid innings against the Hartford Hawks, striking out eight batters in a shutout victory on May 21.
“We can’t wait to play baseball and do what we have been doing all year,” Zamora said.
Along with every other player on this roster, save for Peragine, this will be his first taste of NCAA Tournament action. Comparisons will likely be made to how this team matches up with that 2012 Cinderella team and fans will look to see if the slipper still fits.
“I think the thing that the 2012 World Series team and this team have in common is their resiliency,” Senk said. “They go out and have quality at-bats and take pride in their defense, and our pitchers do an excellent job of throwing strikes.”
This is the second meeting between the Seawolves and Wolfpack in their respective school’s history. The first one was also in an NCAA Regional, with the teams facing off in the 2010 Myrtle Beach Regional. The Seawolves took that matchup, 6-2.
“This team has worked really hard to get to this point in the season,” Peragine said. “We are looking to continue to play hard. We are excited to be here.”