The Stony Brook baseball team is now 5-7 in its last 12 games after splitting its last regular season four-game home series against the NJIT Highlanders at Joe Nathan Field on Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9.
Now at 20-8 against conference opponents, the Seawolves are still in good shape to host the America East tournament with eight games remaining. Stony Brook will be on the road the next two weekends against UMBC and Binghamton, two teams who are fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
“We’re expecting more of the intensity that we saw today,” head coach Matt Senk said. “Between the fact that we’ve put ourselves in first place with the record that we have, and these teams are all fighting for their lives, it’s going to be a dogfight.”
Saturday’s doubleheader was preceded by a Senior Day ceremony to honor graduate pitchers Adam Erickson and Sam Turcotte, graduate center fielder John LaRocca, graduate first baseman Chris Hamilton, redshirt-senior pitcher Brian Herrmann and senior pitcher Jared Milch.
Similar to last weekend’s four-game series against Binghamton, the Seawolves dropped the first game but bounced back to win the second. Stony Brook lost game one 2-0, marking the third time the team has been shut out this season and the second time in the last two weeks.
Game one was a true pitcher’s duel, as neither team scored a run through five innings. To Senk’s pleasure, Stony Brook’s defense helped Milch with two spectacular catches early in the game.
Entering the top of the sixth, Milch had allowed only three hits, but the Highlanders made quick work to break the tie. The inning started with a leadoff single to center field by senior shortstop Julio Marcano. His twin brother, senior left fielder David Marcano, pulled back a bunt and blasted his first home run of the year to give the Highlanders a 2-0 lead.
The Highlanders only needed those two runs, as redshirt-senior pitcher Tyler Stafflinger shut out the Seawolves and picked up the win in his second complete game of the season. Despite taking his third loss of the year, Milch was able to finish the seven-inning game with five strikeouts for his first complete game of the season.
The Seawolves’ offense came back in a big way in game two and led the team to an 11-3 victory.
After two shutout innings, Stony Brook made some noise in the bottom of the third. Despite loading the bases, the Seawolves scored just one run when senior catcher John Tuccillo was also hit by a pitch.
Sophomore shortstop Stanton Leuthner led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to right center and advanced to third on a single by freshman left fielder Evan Fox. Junior catcher Cole Durkan laid down a perfect bunt along the first base line for a single while scoring Leuthner. With two outs, Hamilton lined a double to the right field wall to score Fox and Durkan, giving the Seawolves a 4-0 lead.
Junior pitcher Nick DeGennaro had not allowed a hit through the first four innings, but the Highlanders scored an unearned run off him in the fifth after an error by junior third baseman Evan Giordano and a two-out infield single.
The Seawolves broke the game open with six runs in the bottom of the sixth. After Fox drove in Leuthner, walks loaded the bases and Hamilton lined a bases-clearing triple to left center, giving him five RBI in the game.
“I’m just trying to trust my approach and pass it off to the next guy behind me,” Hamilton said in an interview with The Statesman. “We’ve got a great deep lineup here together.”
Sophomore catcher Shane Paradine drove in Hamilton, while LaRocca scored Paradine with an RBI single to put Stony Brook up 10-1.
In the seventh, DeGennaro was replaced by sophomore pitcher Mark Alday, who allowed one run on four walks to make it a 10-2 game. After recording two outs, Alday exited in favor of Erickson, who got the Seawolves out of the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, freshman second baseman Brady Short lined a leadoff single up the middle and made his way around the bases on three wild pitches to give Stony Brook an 11-2 lead.
Erickson pitched a clean eighth inning and was replaced by sophomore Eric Foster in the top of the ninth. In his season debut, Foster allowed one unearned run, but it proved to be harmless as he finished out the dominant win.
After losing the first game in five straight doubleheaders, the Seawolves looked to start Sunday with a win.
Stony Brook took advantage of a throwing error in the bottom of the second and scored an unearned run on a sac fly by Fox to take a 1-0 lead. The Seawolves tacked on two more in the fourth when Leuthner sent his third home run of the season over the left field wall to make it a 3-0 game. Since returning to the lineup on April 17, Leuthner has hit .283 with all three of his home runs coming in that period.
“I was just trying to gain my confidence back because it was a really tough start to the year and that affected me mentally,” Leuthner said in an interview with The Statesman. “I did a lot of things to stay relaxed, stay calm and just stay positive.”
Herrmann pitched four shutout innings, but the Marcano brothers struck again to get the Highlanders on the board in the fifth. After a leadoff walk and a single, Julio Marcano lined a double down the left field line to bring in one run. David Marcano followed with a single to right field to score two runs and tie the game at 3-3.
The Highlanders threatened again in the sixth with a runner on third and two outs, leading Senk to pull Herrmann, who struck out a season-high nine batters. Junior pitcher Kyle Johnson entered the game with a 1-0 count but struck out junior third baseman Jared Donnelly for the final out of the inning.
After Johnson pitched a clean top of the seventh, it was up to the Seawolves’ offense to come through and break the tie. Fox lined a leadoff single up the middle before the Seawolves benefited from a controversial call.
Sophomore second baseman Brett Paulsen squared around to bunt, but he pulled it back on an inside pitch and claimed that the pitch hit him. The umpires originally ruled that the pitch did indeed hit Paulsen, so Fox moved over to second. After a discussion, the umpires ruled that Paulsen foul tipped the ball into the catcher’s glove, meaning the ball was in play and Fox stole second.
With one strike on him, Paulsen successfully got a bunt down and moved Fox over to third. Senk dialed up a sacrifice squeeze with Durkan up. While the bunt went right in front of home plate, NJIT sophomore catcher Luke Longo could not field it cleanly and Fox slid in safely to walk off the 4-3 win.
“We go up there and we expect to execute,” Durkan said in an interview with The Statesman. “Anyone else that was put in that position would have done the same thing because we all think and believe that we can do it.”
The Seawolves were four outs away from their first series win in three weeks, but the Highlanders got the last laugh in a back-and-forth 7-5 win.
In the top of the third, sophomore center fielder Albert Choi started a two-out rally on a double to left center that ended with the Highlanders up 3-0. Stony Brook answered with a big bottom of the fourth, which started with a solo home run by Tuccillo, his fifth of the year.
Leuthner and Paradine followed with back-to-back singles, but the Seawolves quickly found themselves with two outs. In a 1-2 count, Durkan launched his third home run of the year over the scoreboard in right to give Stony Brook a 4-3 lead.
The Seawolves extended their lead to 5-3 in the fifth on a RBI groundout by Fox, but the Highlanders regained the lead a few innings later.
Turcotte exited after striking out five and allowing two earned runs in six innings, good for his eighth quality start of the year. Johnson came back out of the bullpen and pitched a clean seventh inning, but the Highlanders got to him in the eighth.
Freshman catcher Cole Fleming, who served as the designated hitter, drove in the first run of the inning on a single to left field. Fleming scored on a go-ahead home run by senior catcher Paul Franzoni, which knocked Johnson out of the game.
Junior pitcher Ben Fero briefly entered the game, but he exited after walking and hitting the first two batters he faced. Fero was replaced by sophomore Devin Sharkey, who hadn’t appeared in a game since April 18 against UMBC. Sharkey walked Donnelly to load the bases with one out and a miscommunication between Durkan and Hamilton allowed a pop up to drop into shallow right field, giving the Highlanders a 7-5 lead.
The Seawolves managed a baserunner in each of the last two innings but could not score any runs to lose the final game of the weekend.
Stony Brook will travel to play four games against the last place UMBC Retrievers on Saturday, May 15 and Sunday, May 16.
Mike Anderson contributed reporting to this article.