Catcher Shane Paradine during practice on Feb. 11. The Seawolves lost the opening series against the McNeese State Cowboys. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

Despite overall competitiveness in a three-game series against the McNeese State Cowboys from Friday, Feb. 18 to Sunday, Feb. 20, the Stony Brook baseball team dropped the series to begin its season 1-2.

Opening night was particularly disappointing, as a glaring Seawolves weakness from last season came back to haunt them again. The 2021 Stony Brook bullpen was the only major hole on the roster, and on Friday night, reliever Devin Sharkey gave up a late three-run blast as the Seawolves fell 6-4.

The Seawolves’ ace pitcher Nick DeGennaro departed with a 4-2 lead, striking out eight and walking none while allowing two earned runs on two hits. He received no help from his defense, as second baseman Evan Fox committed an error that led to a successful double steal.

Stony Brook answered immediately when Derek Yalon, starting in right field that night, tied the game with a two-out single, driving in catcher Shane Paradine with Stony Brook’s first run of the season. They had a chance to do more, but they left the bases loaded on a Fox ground out.

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The Seawolves took their first lead of the night in the top of the third, when shortstop Stanton Leuthner drove in first baseman Brett Paulsen with an RBI groundout. However, an RBI single by catcher Tre’ Obregon in the next half-inning knotted the game back up at 2-2.

Stony Brook took the lead back with two outs in the top of the fourth when Fox singled home designated hitter Cole Durkan. Fox then stole his first base of the year, and then Paulsen singled him home on a 3-0 pitch. DeGennaro retired his next six batters, putting him in line to earn the win.

Stony Brook went to the bullpen in the sixth, bringing out lefty Sharkey, a hard thrower who had an up-and-down 2021. He had the best ERA in Stony Brook’s bullpen last year (3.38) as well as a sub-.200 batting average against, but also averaged over a walk per inning. 

Those control issues reared their ugly heads Friday night, when Sharkey walked two and plunked a batter as he gave up the lead. McNeese third baseman Kade Morris delivered the crushing blow, as he belted an opposite-field, three-run homer to put McNeese on top, 5-4. Right-hander Ben Fero followed Sharkey and pitched well, getting the final eight outs for Stony Brook while only surrendering one earned run. 

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Stony Brook had a much better Saturday afternoon. 

The Seawolves were able to earn a commanding 7-3 win, associate head coach Jim Martin’s first victory while filling in for the currently-suspended Matt Senk. The offense was effective, racking up 12 hits and taking advantage of three McNeese State errors.

The middle of the lineup led the way for Stony Brook, as the 4-5-6 hitters all had three hits each. Paradine, who batted cleanup, reached base four times with three hits and a walk. After a dropped foul popup in the top of the fourth, Paradine hit his first career triple into the right-center field gap, and then scored on a Leuthner RBI single. Leuthner then advanced to second on a balk and scored on a double by left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring. Brown-Eiring then advanced to third on a throwing error by the pitcher, and scored on a Yalon sacrifice fly. Three runs, all unearned.

Stony Brook needed that big inning, as their game two starter, Josh O’Neill, had a rough go at it. O’Neill allowed two runs in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the lead to 4-3. He allowed three earned runs on five hits in just four innings pitched.

O’Neill was pulled in favor of the big, left-handed freshman pitcher Colton Book, who dazzled in his collegiate debut. Book earned the win with five shutout innings, only allowing two hits while striking out four and walking none.

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With Book holding down the fort, the offense tacked on three more runs to extend their lead to four. In the top of the ninth, star third baseman Evan Giordano left the yard with his first home run of the year.

However, the Seawolves wound up on the wrong side of a 4-1 defeat Sunday afternoon. In what was a very uneventful game for Stony Brook, the offense only racked up four hits while striking out 12 times.

Starting pitcher Shane Helmstadt worked out of trouble in each of the first two innings, stranding five runners total. However, Helmstadt dug himself into a hole that he could not escape in the bottom of the third, as he allowed four earned runs, capped off with back-to-back doubles by Peyton Johnson and Morris. 

Right-hander Brandon Lashley then came in to relieve Helmstadt, and he pitched two scoreless innings in his return to the mound. Lashley missed all of 2021 after tearing his UCL. The bullpen wound up combining for six scoreless innings. Throughout the combined effort, Johnson tossed a zero in his season debut, while Brendan Patterman also made his first appearance, striking out three in 1.2 innings. 

The game did see the debuts of three more freshmen: Matt Miceli, John Kiss and David Alleva. Miceli started at second base and batted ninth, and he recorded his first career hit on a single in the top of the eighth inning. Kiss finished the game for Stony Brook, pitching 1.1 scoreless innings. Alleva flied out to left field while pinch-hitting to end the game.

The Seawolves will look to bounce back next weekend, as they are set to take on the South Florida Bulls down in Tampa, Florida. All three games will be airing on ESPN+, as the series will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.

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