A five-run rally to come back and take the lead was spoiled in extra innings on Thursday, as Stony Brook fell to Hartford 7-6 in the America East Baseball Tournament.
Hartford senior center fielder Chris DelDebbio stroked a two-out single to left field in the bottom of the 10th inning, as sophomore pinch-runner Nick Campana beat out the relay throw and slid across home plate with the winning run. When the dust settled, celebration had already commenced and the Hawks had leapt from their dugout to greet Campana in a spirited huddle around the plate.
For the Seawolves, who will play a yet-to-be-determined opponent in the losers’ bracket on Friday, the loss was a tough pill to swallow. After trailing 5-0 late, Stony Brook scored two runs in the eighth inning and four runs in the ninth inning to storm back and take a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, where Hartford tied the game before winning it in the 10th.
“It was a tremendous comeback,” head coach Matt Senk said. “One of the best I’ve ever seen…We just kept playing. We played our butts off and put ourselves in a position to win when it looked like we had no shot at winning. That kind of heart and desire is something you can’t help but be proud of, and that kind of heart and desire is also something that can take you through the losers’ bracket and find a way to win the tournament.”
Hartford senior starting pitcher Kyle Gauthier was nearly untouchable through seven innings, allowing just one Stony Brook hit to that point as his team mounted a 5-0 lead. In the eighth inning, the Seawolves finally solved the second-team All-America East pitcher, scoring a pair of runs on two singles — one by sophomore left fielder Andruw Gazzola and one by junior right fielder Casey Baker.
In the ninth, against the Hartford bullpen, the Stony Brook rally continued. With the dugout lined with Seawolves on the top step, their caps turned inside-out and backwards in superstition, freshman Dylan Resk came off the bench to pinch hit with one out and the bases loaded.
Resk ripped a double into the left-field corner, scoring two runs. Gazzola followed it up with a sacrifice fly to tie the game, before senior second baseman Jack Parenty hit a double to right field to give Stony Brook the lead.
But Stony Brook sophomore closer Teddy Rodliff was unable to seal the victory. Hartford junior first baseman David MacKinnon, the America East Player of the Year, dealt a crushing blow in the bottom of the ninth, driving in the tying run with a single to left field, his fourth run driven in of the afternoon.
After loading the bases with one out, Rodliff was able to work out of trouble. Hartford attempted a suicide-squeeze bunt, but the pitcher made a quick flip home to retire the runner, then Rodliff induced a ground ball to Parenty, who made the play to send the game to extra innings. But the damage had already been done and the Hawks put themselves into a situation to win the game the following inning.
Freshman starting pitcher Bret Clarke, the America East Rookie of the Year, struggled a bit in his college playoff debut, giving up three runs on six hits, two walks and three hit batsmen in six innings. The damage against the freshman was done in the fourth inning, when Hartford took a 3-0 lead.
Junior pitcher Connor Doyle came on in relief for Clarke in the seventh inning, allowing MacKinnon to hit a towering two-run home run to left field off the Edward A. LeLacheur Park scoreboard, giving the Hawks a 5-0 lead.
With the double-elimination format of the tournament, the Seawolves’ season is not over yet, but the road to an America East title is steep. Stony Brook will first play the winner of the Albany-Maine game, played late Thursday night, on Friday at 3:30 p.m.. The Seawolves would need to win four straight games, including both ends of a double-header against the winners’ bracket winner to reclaim the conference crown.
“It’s a game of inches out there,” Senk said, his thumb and index finger held out to demonstrate it. “The biggest thing is that we’re still playing. If we can come back with that type of resilience and toughness, we’ll take care of this.”