Junior outfielder Dylan Resk at bat in a game against Maine on April 2, 2016. The Seawolves head into this season with a lack of strong home run hitters. KRYSTEN MASSA/STATESMAN FILE

The Stony Brook baseball team will open its 2018 season on Friday with a four-game series against Nicholls State. Heading into its 28th season under head coach Matt Senk, the team has posted back-to-back average seasons, falling short of a sixth conference tournament championship for the program. This year, it has a number of questions to answer throughout the season if it is to recapture the America East crown.

One of the notable weaknesses this year’s lineup may face is a lack of team power. Junior outfielder Dylan Resk led the team with 13 home runs last season, but the rest of the team produced just 21 home runs. Two of the team’s next-highest home run hitters, outfielder Toby Handley and utility player Casey Baker, graduated last spring.

One potential solution is the development of sophomore outfielder Michael Wilson. Wilson sent five balls into the stands last season as part of an America East All-Rookie campaign. Building off his freshman performance would be a huge boost to this year’s lineup, and would provide protection for Resk in the heart of the order.

Another factor in the Seawolves’ success this season will be whether or not sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Herrmann can repeat his strong performance as the top starter. Herrmann earned a first-team America East selection last season, posting a 4-3 record with a 3.46 ERA in over 80 innings. He already showed the potential to frustrate opponents with shutout performances against UCSB and Hartford, so another year of improvement could solidify his spot as staff ace.

One candidate to complement Herrmann in the starting role is redshirt-sophomore right-hander Greg Marino. He managed to strike out 58 batters in 2017, the most on the team, despite pitching in 20 fewer innings than Herrmann. Marino did allow a .267 batting average against however, which will need to go down if he spends more time starting.

Should Marino struggle, another option could come from a bounce back season by junior right-handed pitcher Bret Clarke. He was an America East All-Rookie in his freshman season with a 6-2 record and a 2.19 ERA, but struggled throughout last year. His ERA ballooned to 6.30 due to allowing 23 more hits in only three more innings, including five more home runs. Clarke still shows the potential to bounce back, as he managed to strike out 51 batters and throw four less wild pitches, indicating that his issues weren’t related to control.

Stony Brook’s predominantly right-handed pitching staff will also have to find success dealing with left-handed hitters. Of the 21 pitchers on the roster, only seniors Teddy Rodliff, Kevin Kernan and Cole Creighton throw left-handed. Kernan made a majority of his appearances as a starter, so that leaves Rodliff and Creighton to handle any lefty-on-lefty matchup Coach Senk runs into.

Nicholls State will be the first opportunity for Stony Brook to find out what its team has going forward, but these questions won’t be fully answered until the conference playoffs arrive. For a program with Stony Brook’s recent history, returning to regionals is the only way to overcome the results of the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see if they can get there.

Player to Watch:

Heading into another season of Seawolves baseball, one of the pillars that Coach Senk will rely on is junior outfielder Dylan Resk. Resk made a major jump in production last year, posting the fourth highest home run total in Stony Brook history while nearly doubling his walks and runs-batted-in.

Stony Brook will need a similar improvement from some of its second-year players to return to the top of the conference, and Resk can play a huge part in that happening. Now an upperclassmen on a roster that features more freshman than any other class, part of Resk’s task will include being an example for his teammates to take their next step while continuing to be at the forefront of Stony Brook’s offensive production.