The ball seemed to be in the air for an eternity before landing in a wide-open right field gap. Junior catcher David Real’s pinch-hit bloop single hung for so long that Stony Brook’s players had already emerged from the dugout to celebrate before the ball hit the Joe Nathan Field turf.
The UMBC right fielder was shifted left of his normal positioning for the right-handed hitter, leaving space for the ball to drop, and for scoring junior outfielder Casey Baker to win the second of a three game series this past weekend.
“I was preparing myself all game for that pinch-hit at-bat,” Real said. “I just went for the first fastball I saw and it happened to work out.”
The win was the second and deciding win for Stony Brook in the two-games-to-one series victory. The Seawolves improved their conference record to 9-4.
“Gotta love the walk-offs,” head coach Matt Senk said. “He had another terrific at bat and got it done for us.”
The Seawolves offense erupted after being held hitless with runners in scoring position prior to the ninth inning. Freshman outfielder Dylan Resk hit a double to right center to begin the team’s comeback after being down one entering the final inning of play. A few batters later, sophomore third baseman Bobby Honeyman drove in Resk on a line-drive single up the middle to tie the game.
Freshman starting pitcher Bret Clarke put Stony Brook in place to make the comeback, striking out 10 Retriever hitters and allowing just one run across five innings pitched.
Stony Brook was pinned up against a UMBC team that, entering the weekend series, boasted the top two hitters in the America East in sophomore designated hitter Kevin LaChance and junior outfielder Anthony Gatto. Starting pitcher Chad Lee made sure to set the tone in game one of the series.
Despite his streak of 31 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run coming to an end, Lee did not let his individual goals get in the way of the task at hand. He tossed his second eight inning performance of the season, this time allowing just one run on three hits.
“His changeup right now is nothing short of outstanding,” Senk said. “He continues to give us one great outing after another.”
Lee threw 111 pitches after missing his last start to rest a sore forearm. He had not pitched since April 16 against UMass Lowell.
“It was mainly just rest,” Lee said. “I needed as much rest as possible so I could finish the season strong.”
Senior starting pitcher Tyler Honahan continued the trend of high quality starting pitching into Sunday’s game, allowing just two runs to cross the plate in 5.2 innings pitched while striking out five Retriever batters. However, he was unable to secure the win as the offense struggled until the ninth inning. At that point, his team was down three runs to none.
Baker hit a single towards third base to begin yet another late inning rally. After the previous hitter had singled to put two men on, Saturday’s hero, Real, delivered in the clutch yet again with a double that scored two runs. The hit put the Seawolves within one run of the Retrievers.
Then, just as he had done less than 24 hours earlier, Honeyman delivered with a game-tying hit. This time he hit an opposite-field double down the left field line to score Real from second and tie the game. With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and a runner on second base, Stony Brook was in position to end the game on another walk-off.
However, the next two hitters struck out and flew out to right field to end the team’s best chance to end the game and secure the sweep. Instead they played baseball in the rain for another two innings.
In the 11th inning the Retrievers broke out to score three runs that began when Resk, the left fielder, failed to complete a diving catch that could have just been a single had he fielded the ball more conservatively. The play allowed UMBC to take a decisive lead late in the game and eventually defeat Stony Brook, 6-3.
Though the final game of the series was a loss, Senk expressed optimism in his team’s performance this weekend.
“We could have been in great position [with a sweep],” Senk said, “but instead we remain in good position winning two out of three here with nine left to play.”
Up next, Stony Brook will head north to Binghamton to play a three game series at Varsity Field. This will be an important series with implications on the America East standings as the Seawolves sit 1.5 games back of the first-place Bearcats.