Losing five consecutive games against conference-rival Binghamton, including a loss in the 2016 America East Championship, takes its toll. But it also provides an environment for increased motivation. Binghamton entered Sunday’s doubleheader with a 27-9 overall record and the 10th best earned run average in the country.
The Bearcats moved to steal the momentum from the Seawolves in Game One at Joe Nathan Field when junior catcher Jason Agresti hit a two-run home run in the first inning.
Senior centerfielder Toby Handley provided an immediate response to Binghamton’s two-run opening inning by hitting a solo home run to lead off the game. The home run was his fifth of the season.
It was the spark that kicked off a 17-run effort, which is the most runs the Seawolves have scored against an America East opponent since the team’s College World Series run in 2012. Stony Brook defeated Binghamton 17-9 in Game One before completing the two-game sweep of the top team in the America East.
“It’s Senior Day and my family was here,” Handley said. “I just never thought that would happen, but especially on Senior Day.”
Handley was among the seniors honored, joining Casey Baker, Jeremy Giles, David Real, Cody Clarke and Cameron Stone on the field prior to the start of Sunday’s doubleheader. The group was responsible for driving in a combined 10 runs in the two games.
“[Handley] has arguably been the catalyst for this team all year,” head coach Matt Senk said. “Big-time players play big in big games.”
Stony Brook scored a season-high 17 runs in a game that Binghamton junior starting pitcher Nick Gallagher started, who had the best ERA in the America East among qualifying pitchers prior to Sunday’s doubleheader.
“I think the guys did a real good job of not trying to do too much,” Senk said. “ [Gallagher] has a certain way he likes to pitch and I think we did a great job of neutralizing him.”
The Seawolves finished the game with 21 hits, while junior left fielder Andruw Gazzola led the team with five. A seven-hit fifth inning resulted in seven runs. The seven-run inning gave the team a 15-4 lead.
Despite all of the productivity in the first game, Stony Brook lost sophomore starting pitcher Bret Clarke to an apparent arm injury in the third inning. Coach Senk pulled him once the sophomore began feeling pain in his throwing arm.
“We thought the way he was moving around that his arm was bothering him. He didn’t feel right,” Senk said. “He was already looked at by the team doctor and trainer, but I’m sure we will have a follow-up.”
Senk called on freshman pitcher Greg Marino to relieve Clarke following the injury. Marino is typically a starting pitcher so he was able to come in and pitch several innings. He allowed just one earned run in his first five innings of relief before surrendering four more in the eighth inning. However, he earned his second win of the season.
Freshman starting pitcher Brian Herrmann earned the start in Game Two of the doubleheader. He pitched five and two-thirds innings of one-run baseball against a formidable Binghamton offense in the 4-1 series-clinching victory. However, a major injury scare in the sixth inning had spectators and his team worrying about his health.
A Binghamton batter smoked a line drive off of the back of Herrmann’s head, causing a previously emphatic crowd to become silent with concern. He immediately fell to the ground in pain as he held his head. He joins freshman pitcher Sam Turcotte as the second pitcher on the team to get hit in the head by a line drive this season.
However, after examination on the mound, the freshman walked off the field under his own power, and with a smile on his face.
“He’s fine. He’s not concussed,” Senk confirmed. “He’s got a big bump on his head, but he’s going to be OK.”
Prior to the injury scare, Herrmann was holding a Binghamton offense, that sought retribution from the 17-9 thumping the previous game, to just one run.
“Where he has improved significantly is his breaking ball,” Senk said. “He’ll be big for us down the stretch.”
Binghamton had difficulty scoring in the second game. The team’s one run came via Jason Agresti’s sacrifice fly in the first inning of the game. Herrmann earned his third win of the season to improve his win-loss record to 3-3. He will be a major factor in the team’s success in the upcoming America East Tournament if Clarke does indeed miss time.
Mirroring the first game, Handley was not deterred because the Bearcats scored first. He hit a leadoff triple to get the ball rolling. The triple was the 17th of his career, breaking former Seawolf and current San Diego Padre Travis Jankowski’s program record. Senior first baseman Casey Baker hit the ball hard the following at-bat, forcing an error and allowing Handley to tie the game 1-1.
Handley finished the double header with four hits, two triples and a home run in his final game at Joe Nathan Field.
Stony Brook took a decisive lead when freshman shortstop Nick Grande scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning. Senior catcher David Real rounded out Senior Day with a two-run double in the sixth to bring the game to its final score of 4-1.
The Seawolves improve their conference record to 10-9 and currently sit in third place in the America East.
Following the sweep of Binghamton, Stony Brook will travel to Maryland to play UMBC in a series that will determine if the Seawolves will be the second or third seed in the America East Tournament. The series will begin Friday at noon.