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The Stony Brook Baseball team, pictured above on April 2, will enter the America East Tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Seawolves will face the Maine Black Bears on Wednesday afternoon as they begin the fight to defend their conference title. KRYSTEN MASSA/THE STATESMAN.

Stony Brook Baseball’s route to secure the championship will not be so easy this year, despite the team being America East Tournament’s No. 1 seed for the past two seasons. Looking to defend their title from last spring, Stony Brook enters this year’s conference tournament seeded third and will play sixth-seeded Maine on Wednesday afternoon.

The tournament, hosted by UMass Lowell at Edward A. LeLacheur Park, uses a six-team double-elimination format. With the bracket set up in this style, teams are allowed to lose twice before being eliminated from the tournament. With Stony Brook missing out on the second-round byes awarded to the conference’s top two seeds — Binghamton and Hartford — the team has its work cut out.

But this is a team that has six returning starters in its lineup who know what it takes to succeed this time of year and their last few games have shown that.

Stony Brook ended the season winning four of its last five games by outscoring opponents 28-3 in that span. The team boasts a strong pitching rotation, as freshman Bret Clarke and senior Chad Lee are the top two pitchers in the America East with earned run averages of 1.94 and 2.14 respectively. The pair comes in addition to senior Tyler Honahan, a three-year starter who has issued two consecutive scoreless starts, heating up in time for postseason play.

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Stony Brook’s first game will pit Lee as the starter against Maine and their sophomore pitcher Logan Fullmer. The Black Bears’ ace is not even two weeks removed from outperforming Lee in a 2-1 win over the Seawolves on May 14.

Fullmer has been very effective against the Seawolves, allowing just one earned run in 13 innings pitched over two starts this season. Even though Stony Brook defeated Maine in four of five regular season meetings, Fullmer’s strong performance was the deciding factor in the Seawolves’ lone loss to the Black Bears.

Hartford is the tournament’s No. 2 seed and would be Stony Brook’s second-round matchup should the Seawolves win on Wednesday.

Despite the Hawks being ahead in tournament seeding, the Seawolves won their regular season series 2-1. However, Hartford scored the most runs and allowed the fewest in the America East Conference, making the team a formidable foe.

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The Seawolves will be tasked with containing sophomore shortstop Ben Bengtson, the conference’s leader with 50 runs batted in, and the junior first baseman David MacKinnon, the conference’s leader with a .398 batting average. But over the regular season, the Seawolves tempered the dynamic offense, holding the Hawks scoreless in two of the three games they played this season.

Perhaps the most difficult opponent Stony Brook could face is top-seeded Binghamton. The Bearcats swept the Seawolves on May 7 and 8 at Binghamton. Fortunately for Stony Brook, if the teams do meet in the postseason, it will be on neutral grounds with no home field advantage.

Regardless, the team’s pitching would need to find a way to be effective against a lineup that lit them up for 19 runs in that series. Senior second baseman Reed Gamache drove in eight runs in the series, hitting two home runs.

Binghamton junior first baseman Brendan Skidmore is third in the conference with nine home runs. This team hits the baseball very well, and has done so against Seawolves pitching. Stony Brook’s greatest weapon will have to show up, keep the ball low in the zone and minimize Binghamton’s offense.

Two seasons ago, the Seawolves watched as the Bearcats stormed the field to win the America East Championship in walk-off fashion. Perhaps this time around, Stony Brook can exact revenge on Binghamton and return to the NCAA Tournament.

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