Stony Brook third baseman Evan Giordano after tripping over the Sacred Heart first baseman on Wednesday, March 2. Giordano’s sacrifice fly drove in a run in the bottom of the first. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook baseball team returned to Joe Nathan Field for the first time since the controversial title game last year, as the Seawolves (1-6) fell to the previously winless Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-5) 9-6.

Interim head coach Jim Martin, filling in for the suspended Matt Senk, was visibly frustrated with the loss after the game and declared a need to “play better” overall.

“I thought we were inconsistent in every aspect of the game,” Martin said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “We had a lead that we blew. We’ve got to hit better; we’ve got to pitch better; we’ve got to field better; we’ve got to base run better.”

Unlike Sunday’s 17-2 blowout at South Florida, Stony Brook had many opportunities to win this game. The offense was much-improved, scoring six runs on nine hits, higher than any game in the South Florida sweep. The Seawolves even drew first blood when third baseman Evan Giordano’s sacrifice fly drove in a run in the bottom of the first.

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Stony Brook turned to right-hander Shane Helmstadt on the mound to snap the losing streak, but Helmstadt’s pitches found too many bats. He worked out of trouble in a scoreless first inning but was shelled after that, as he allowed five earned runs in the second and was pulled from the game after the third. He went three innings, allowing the five earned runs on seven hits while striking out three and walking two. 

Hope seemed to be lost for Stony Brook, trailing 5-1 and needing six innings from their bullpen. However, reliever Brendan Pattermann kept Sacred Heart’s offense at bay, tossing a scoreless fourth inning and keeping the score at 5-1. That set the stage for the offense to make a comeback, as in the bottom of the fourth, a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for leadoff hitter and second baseman Evan Fox.

Fox is not known for his power, only hitting one home run during his freshman year. However, he launched Pioneers pitcher Jack Kramer’s fastball to left field, and the ball fell into the net above the home run line for a grand slam. It was Fox’s first home run of the year and the second of his collegiate career. Suddenly, it was a 5-5 tie ballgame and Stony Brook had all the momentum.

Patterman threw up another zero in the top of the fifth, and then Stony Brook broke the tie with an opposite-field RBI single by first baseman Brett Paulsen. Throughout the last two years, he has done a lot of damage in crucial RBI spots, and he has used his opposite-field hitting abilities to his advantage in the clutch. 

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Now leading 6-5, the Seawolves turned to righty reliever Andrew Ledbetter, but he struggled to throw strikes. He walked three hitters in the inning, two of which came around to score. Despite not allowing a hit, Ledbetter allowed two earned runs to give Sacred Heart the lead back.

The Pioneers would not look back. In the top of the seventh, Seawolves reliever Kyle Johnson entered but was hit hard, surrendering two more runs to extend Sacred Heart’s lead to 9-6. In the home half, the Seawolves loaded the bases with one out, but Paulsen grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Scoreless eighth and ninth innings from relievers Jack Carr and Brandon Lashley, respectively, gave the Seawolves hope down to their final three outs. The first two batters both reached, sending the tying run to the plate, but a strikeout and a fielder’s choice meant that left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring represented the team’s last chance with runners on the corners.

However, he flew out to center field, and Sacred Heart reliever David Aufiero earned the save for the Pioneers.

Martin also shed some light on a health update. Ace pitcher Nick DeGennaro was pulled after just 62 pitches in his start last Friday against South Florida, and Martin said that the team is waiting to see if he is healthy and that there is “no information” regarding that as of now.

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The loss was a tough one for Stony Brook to take, but there were some positives. Shortstop Stanton Leuthner extended his season-opening hit streak to seven games, slashing .400/.483/.520 to start the year. Paulsen and Brown-Eiring both had multi-hit games from the bottom of the lineup, and freshman catcher Chris Leone made his first career start, walking twice and scoring on Fox’s grand slam. 

However, Stony Brook shot itself in the foot by leaving 10 men on base.

The Seawolves can turn the tide on their slow start with a weekend series against the Western Carolina Catamounts down in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Senk’s nine-game suspension will be fully served after Saturday’s game, so Stony Brook’s 32nd-year head coach can resume his duties on Sunday.

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