As they did all tournament long, Stony Brook dug themselves out of a deficit on Saturday, May 25 in the championship game of the America East Conference Baseball Tournament. Having erased a three-run hole against the Binghamton Bearcats, junior pitcher Brandon Bonanno shut down the opposing offense, earning the win after an 11-out effort that secured the Seawolves’ 7–5 victory and their sixth conference title.
“I’m so very proud of our team for winning the conference tournament championship and the regular season championship,” head coach Matt Senk said in a press release. “I’m especially proud of our seniors who came so close in previous years and committed themselves this year to solidifying their legacy like the many great players and senior classes that played before them in our program. Lastly, I want to thank my coaches, support staff, fellow Stony Brook coaching staffs and administration for their tireless effort to make accomplishments like this possible.”
As the No. 1 seed, Stony Brook earned a first-round bye and took on the No. 4 UMass Lowell River Hawks during the Thursday, May 23 second round matchup. The Seawolves struck first in the bottom of the second and added another run in the third to take a quick 2-0 lead. Stony Brook’s starter, redshirt-junior pitcher Greg Marino, gave up a three-run home run in the top of the fourth to UMass Lowell junior catcher Ciaran Devenney. The River Hawks appeared to blow the game open in the eighth, taking a 6-2 lead before a 75-minute rain delay halted the action. On the first pitch after the delay, junior outfielder Michael Wilson left the yard on a solo shot to right center. After a double by senior infielder Brandon Alamo, senior outfielder Dylan Resk launched a two-run homer to left, bringing the Seawolves to within one.
Senior infielder Brandon Janofsky led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. While junior infielder and America East Player of the Year Nick Grande followed with a walk, Janofsky was picked off second after straying too far from the bag. It was all for naught, as junior first baseman Chris Hamilton drilled a pitch over the right center field fence. The two-run walk-off blast sent the Seawolves into an uproar at home plate, and Senk called the 7–6 victory “one of the all-time great comebacks in our program’s history.”
On Friday, May 24, Stony Brook faced the Bearcats in the third round. The game began as a pitcher’s duel, with the Seawolves scoring the lone run on a wild pitch entering the sixth. Senior pitcher Bret Clarke started for Stony Brook and took a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a single to freshman catcher Connor Aoki. Two batters later, sophomore outfielder Shane Marshall homered to right field, giving the Bearcats the 2-1 lead.
An Alamo RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth tied the game, and then senior catcher Sean Buckhout recorded his first career home run in a crucial moment — a three-run blast that just barely cleared the foul pole. The Bearcats managed to put the go-ahead run on base in the top of the ninth, but junior pitcher Sam Turcotte notched his seventh save of the season and secured the 5-4 victory as the Seawolves advanced to the championship game.
Needing to win just one of two in the final round, the Seawolves would face the winner of the semifinals on Saturday, which happened to be the Bearcats after they trounced the Hartford Hawks 10-5 to win the tournament’s loser bracket. Junior pitcher Jared Milch faced off against Binghamton freshman pitcher Ryan Bryggman, and Bryggman buckled first in the bottom of the second, giving up RBI singles to sophomore catcher John Tuccillo and Grande. In the third, Milch struck out the first two batters but then gave up three straight two-out hits to allow Binghamton to whittle the lead down to 2–1.
The Bearcats continued their rally in the top of the fourth. With men on first and second, Aoki doubled to center field on a ball misplayed by Wilson, scoring both runs to take a 3-2 lead. Marshall then took Milch deep, recording a home run in his fourth straight game to extend Binghamton’s advantage to 5-2. Stony Brook’s lead evaporated in a hurry, but the Seawolves got one back in the bottom of the inning when Janofsky’s fielder’s choice scored Tuccillo from third.
The tides turned once again in the bottom of the fifth. Wilson led off the inning with his tenth long ball of the season, sending Bryggman out of the game. He was relieved by senior pitcher Nick Gallagher, who had one day of rest after throwing 121 pitches in the second round against UAlbany. On Gallagher’s fourth pitch of the game, Alamo went back-to-back, depositing his fourth home run of the year over the left center field wall to tie the game at 5-5.
The Seawolves completed a third straight comeback in the sixth, as freshman infielder Johnny Decker and Janofsky both reached base to set up the top of the order. Grande moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt before Hamilton swung on the first pitch and pulled the ball through the right-center gap for a 2 RBI double, giving Stony Brook the 7-5 lead.
Bonanno, after taking over for Milch in the sixth, found himself in trouble in the seventh with runners on second and third with one out, but the next two Bearcat batters went down looking to end the threat. With Binghamton down to their final three outs, redshirt-junior outfielder Daniel Franchi lined a single through Grande’s legs to start the top of the ninth.
However, the scorching Marshall followed with a sharply hit bullet that was fielded cleanly by Grande as he turned the 6-4-3 double play. Bonanno sealed the deal by fanning redshirt-junior infielder Alex Baratta to end the game, triggering a flood of Seawolves as they piled up on the pitching mound in euphoria over their first conference title since 2015.
Having won their sixth America East title, Stony Brook moves into a tie for most conference baseball championships with Delaware, who left the America East for the CAA in 2001. Hamilton was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, having driven in the game-winning runs on Thursday and Saturday.
The Seawolves, now 31-21, will advance to their sixth NCAA Tournament. On Monday, May 27’s selection show on ESPNU, it was revealed that Stony Brook would be playing in the Baton Rouge Regional against LSU, seven years after they stunned the Tigers in an improbable upset to reach the College World Series. The matchup will begin on Friday, May 31 on ESPNU at 7 p.m.