Junior pitcher Nick DeGennaro in a game against Sacred Heart on Feb. 26. He made his first start on the mound since his elbow injury in a game against Fordham on March 9. SARA RUBERG/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook baseball team could not hold on to a late five-run lead and suffered a heartbreaking 9-7 loss to the Fordham Rams on Tuesday, March 9 at Joe Nathan Field.

The Seawolves took control early and were on their way to a victory with a 7-2 lead heading into the seventh inning. The Rams chipped away and entered the ninth inning down one. Three runs later, Stony Brook was forced to bat in the bottom of the ninth and could not spark a rally.

“That was one of those ‘kick in the stomach’ type of losses,” head coach Matt Senk said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “To be up 7-2 and nine outs away is a really tough pill to swallow.”

Stony Brook wasted no time getting in the runs column, as graduate center fielder John LaRocca blasted a homerun over the scoreboard in right field to lead off the bottom of the first. The Rams got two quick outs before sophomore first baseman Shane Paradine hit a towering fly ball to left field that dropped just inside the foul line for a double. Senior catcher John Tuccillo followed with an RBI double off the left field wall to give the Seawolves a 2-0 lead.

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Junior pitcher Nick DeGennaro, making his first start since coming back from an elbow injury, made quick work of Fordham’s first two batters in the second inning before allowing a single to Will Findlay. 

The next batter, Jack Harnisch, hit a missile off the right field wall and Findlay was waved home by his third base coach. Graduate right fielder Chris Hamilton started a perfect relay that beat Findlay to the plate, but Tuccillo lost the ball on the tag, allowing Findlay to score and cutting Stony Brook’s lead to one.

The Seawolves answered quickly with some aggressive baserunning. Freshman second baseman Evan Fox was hit by a pitch and junior left fielder Cole Durkan walked to start the bottom of the second. Stony Brook called for a double steal and both runners advanced safely. Fox then scored on a wild pitch and Durkan advanced to third. With one out, Durkan scored on a sac fly from LaRocca, extending Stony Brook’s lead to 4-1.

DeGennaro allowed another run in his fourth and last inning, finishing the day with three strikeouts and two earned runs on 71 pitches. Freshman pitcher Shane Helmstadt made his collegiate debut in relief of DeGennaro and worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning.

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Junior third baseman Evan Giordano walked and stole second to start the bottom of the fifth. Paradine hit a pop up that fell in shallow right field as a result of a miscommunication between the Fordham first baseman and right fielder. Hustling out of the box, Paradine made it to second with a double and Giordano advanced to third.

With two outs, Giordano scored on a passed ball and Paradine advanced to third. Fox then hit a line drive to left center field for an RBI single, giving the Seawolves a 6-2 lead.

Back on the mound in the sixth inning, Helmstadt hit and walked the first two batters he faced. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, leaving Helmstadt with runners on second and third with one out. He fell behind in the count 3-0 and seemed like he would load the bases, but buckled down and forced back-to-back groundouts to escape the inning and end his scoreless debut.

“He’s going to help us. He does a lot of good things,” Senk said about Helmstadt. “In the second inning, he tried to do too much for whatever reason, but he managed to get himself out with a big pitch.”

To lead off the bottom of the sixth, LaRocca beat out an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Giordano grounded out to second, allowing LaRocca to move to third, which set him up to score on a sac fly from Hamilton.

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Stony Brook’s offense was much more effective in situations with runners in scoring position than it was in Sunday’s doubleheader loss to UMass.

“I thought overall, we had much better at-bats, especially with cutting down our strikeouts,” Senk said. “Despite the 7-1 game against Sacred Heart, I think that this was our best offensive performance to date.”

The Seawolves took a 7-2 lead into the seventh as sophomore pitcher Josh O’Neill took the mound. O’Neill walked the Rams’ leadoff batter before Casey Brown crushed a two-run homerun to right field to cut the deficit to three.

Sophomore Mark Alday came out of the bullpen for the eighth inning, making his collegiate debut. Alday struggled to find the strike zone, hitting the first batter he faced and throwing three total wild pitches. He managed to get two outs, but could not get out of the inning as the next batter reached on a well-placed infield single to shortstop.

Alday forced a weak ground ball to third but Paradine could not pick Giordano’s low throw, allowing the runner on third to score. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, giving the Rams runners on second and third. Aldy then threw another wild pitch allowing a second unearned run to score. With a 3-0 count, Senk decided to intentionally walk the batter, signaling the end of Aldy’s debut.

Senior Brian Morrisey came out of the bullpen and struck out Jason Coules to end the inning. Morrissey came back out for the top of the ninth with a 7-6 lead to try to earn the four-out save. The Rams had other plans. Morrisey allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning, giving the Rams runners on the corners with no outs.

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Andy Semo laid down a bunt, which Morrissey fielded and attempted to get the out at home, but the toss was too late and the game was tied. Morrissey struck the next batter out, but then allowed three consecutive singles that plated two runs for Fordham. Morrisey was able to get two ground outs to end the inning, but the Rams had completed the comeback and took a 9-7 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Giordano walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but the Seawolves could not capitalize as Hamilton, Paradine and Tuccillo went down in order to end the game.

The Seawolves’ bullpen struggled to close out what seemed to be a rather easy win and lacking an established closer, Morrissey had a chance to earn the team’s first save of the season. 

“The bullpen is a work in progress,” Senk said. “We’re still trying to find that person who’s going to fill that [closer] role or if there’s going to be a different way we’re going to have to approach it.”

The 2-4 Seawolves will make their first road trip of the season this weekend, playing three games against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils from Friday, March 12 to Sunday, March 14.

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