First baseman Lindsey Osmer up to bat in the game against Hofstra on April 6. Osmer will be taking former teammate Melissa Rahrich’s position at first this season. STEPH MACH/THE STATESMAN

With all of the talent on last year’s roster, the Stony Brook softball team seemed to deserve a better ending.

“We have unfinished business,” first baseman Lindsey Osmer said to The Statesman. “I’ve finished second in the America East twice now and that’s not good enough for me.”

Things were looking pretty good for Stony Brook up until the final stretch last year. The team was in first place until the second-to-last weekend of the season when they were swept by Albany. The Seawolves were one out away from clinching the regular-season title, but gave up three runs to the UMBC Retrievers, who they would also lose to in the tournament’s championship round. 

In 2022, Osmer and her teammates are looking for a better attempt. Despite the fact that the softball team will be ineligible for the postseason due to Stony Brook’s pending move to the Colonial Athletic Association, the players are focused on winning the regular season.

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“I think this could be the year,” Osmer said.

That will be a taller task for this season’s team. Though talented, they are much younger this year and have to fill some massive gaps. It feels wrong that last year’s graduating class departed Stony Brook without ever winning the elusive ring — the last time the Seawolves made the NCAA Tournament was in 2013.

Melissa Rahrich was a complete package, doubling as Stony Brook’s first baseman and reliable number two starting pitcher in a decorated career that saw her graduate as the program’s all-time leader in hits and RBIs. Leadoff-hitting center fielder Jourdin Hering holds the Seawolves’ all-time record for singles while catcher Jordyn Nowakowski hit the second-most home runs last season behind Rahrich. Riley Craig provided a left-handed bat and played a steady third base.

Those four starters gave too much talent to Stony Brook to have never won it all, and their departures immediately raise the question as to who would fill their spots. Once again playing the role of ‘reigning runner-ups,’ the Seawolves are projected to finish in second place behind UMBC.

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“This team has a little bit of a different look to it, but it’s got a lot of great parts in and of itself,” head coach Megan Bryant said in an interview with The Statesman. “We’ve got good depth, so we’ve got people vying for positions … We want people to earn their way into the lineup.”

Osmer will take over for Rahrich at first. She began her career at third base but learned to play first base on games when Rahrich was in the circle. Sophomore Alicia Orosco is expected to succeed Hering in center field. 

“She can flat-out go get the ball,” Bryant said. “She’s got a long body, covers a lot of ground. We also expect her to do some good things for us at the top of the order offensively.” 

Catcher Corinne Badger will be stepping into a new full-time role, as confirmed by pitcher Dawn Bodrug, the ace of the Seawolves’ rotation. The two have already made meaningful memories on the diamond.

“She caught my perfect game, so we’ve got that bond,” Bodrug said.

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Two pitchers are set to be in the mix for Rahrich’s spot as the number two starter: senior Shelbi Denman and junior Ashton Melaas. Denman has been with the program for three years, sporting a career 2.52 ERA across 136 innings along with a 16-7 record. Melaas is a junior college transfer who won the NJCAA D-III Pitcher of the Year award last year and helped lead Rock Valley Community College to a national title. 

Bryant also mentioned utility player Catherine Anne Kupinski as someone who could potentially see a bigger role this year. 

“We’re really pleased with Catherine Anne Kupinski and her growth as a player,” Bryant said. “She’s going to be able to do good things for us offensively … She’s very versatile defensively.”

Outfielder Julianna Sanzone had an excellent rookie year in limited playing time, batting .302 and slugging .453 while making only 17 starts. It is likely that she will play a bigger role on the 2022 team, but Bryant was only willing to confirm that she is “vying for a starting role.” 

“I’m definitely excited to hopefully be starting this year,” Sanzone said. 

She will play a key role in replacing some of the production that Hering left behind. In order to help her do that, not only did she work on her hitting this offseason, but she worked on improving her confidence coming into this season.

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“My biggest thing is my confidence going into my second year,” Sanzone said. “Freshman year, I had a chip on my shoulder to begin with. This year, I think staying in that mentality, like an underdog mentality, helps me out a lot.”

Bryant also mentioned that it would be tough to replace the players they lost with just one player at each position, so she would rather see more players chip in and help replace the lost production.

“I think what we’re going to look at offensively, with the numbers that we have to replace, is contributions from more people,” Bryant said. “Whether or not we have that 50-60 RBI person remains to be seen, but if we can have a couple of people with 25 RBIs, it’ll be the same number of runs scored.”

Even despite the hits her roster took from graduation, Bryant remains optimistic for every facet of her team. 

“We’re excited about the ability and the experience on our pitching staff, and we pride ourselves on great team defense, so I think all of the pieces are there,” Bryant said. “I think we’re going to be really tough one through nine. I think we’re going to be able to put out a lineup that doesn’t have holes, and we’re going to utilize our speed a great deal this year.” 

She has reasons to believe in her team. There are several reliable players on the roster, as well as a superstar ace that they can ride all the way to the finish line. 

Bodrug’s 2021 was one of the greatest in program history, as she posted a 1.67 ERA over 163.1 innings for the Seawolves. She held opponents to a .157 batting average, struck out 245 batters overall and posted a win-loss record of 16-8. 

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Second baseman Kyra McFarland is a left-handed hitter who made the America East All-Rookie Team as a freshman last year and won Rookie of the Week three times in total. Osmer was a reliable bat in the lineup, batting .265 while driving in 15 runs for the Seawolves, including two walk-offs. Outfielder Shauna Nuss is a left-handed slap-hitter who batted .284, the third-highest mark on the team last year. 

Rounding out this list is shortstop Nicole McCarvill, who has been starting since her freshman year and holds a career .254 average. She was third on the team in RBIs in 2021. 

The players are locked in as well. With the way the season ended, some players are coming into the season with chips on their shoulders.

“Personally, I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m ready to go after it,” Osmer said. “We saw in the championship game that it’s head-to-head. So, I want to win it. We will win it.” 

Last year’s squad finished 27-16 (10-6 AE) but lost four of their last six games — all to UMBC, and all while facing the Retrievers’ buzzsaw of a pitcher named Courtney Coppersmith. 

Coppersmith threw complete games in all four of her starts against Stony Brook last year, winning each one. The most important was her shutout in the championship game as she out-dueled Bodrug for a 1-0 win that lowered Coppersmith’s season ERA to 0.65.

Given the depth they have and the pitching they possess, the Seawolves have the potential to win the regular season title, but it will all depend on whether or not they can figure out Coppersmith in time.

Stony Brook opens its season in Miami, Florida as a participant in the multi-team FIU Tournament on Friday, Feb. 25, playing both the Drexel Dragons and the FIU Panthers on opening day.

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