Pitcher Jack Carr catching the ball against Sacred Heart on Mar. 2. Carr earned his first career save as the Stony Brook baseball team won its first series of the year against Western Carolina. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook baseball team had a big bounceback weekend down in Cullowhee, North Carolina, winning its first series of the year against the Western Carolina Catamounts.

All three games were decided by one run, with Stony Brook (3-7), taking the series opener and the rubber match over WCU from Friday, March 4 to Sunday, March 6.

The Seawolves’ offense showed signs that they are starting to hit their stride, overcoming the inconsistent performances of the defense and the pitching staff this season. A combined one-hitter tilted the series in the Seawolves’ favor on Sunday. If not for the bullpen coughing up the lead on Saturday, Stony Brook could have swept.

In the series opener, Stony Brook looked to be on its way towards a sixth straight loss before getting timely late-game hits. Relief pitcher Ben Fero started the game for Stony Brook, recording his first start since his All-Rookie freshman season of 2019. As the Seawolves continued to look for answers in the rotation, he went five innings without surrendering an earned run.

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The three runs he gave up were all unearned; two came in the bottom of the second after an error by shortstop Stanton Leuthner helped give WCU a 2-0 lead. In the fifth, catcher Shane Paradine’s throwing error allowed WCU center fielder Bryson Parks to advance to third base after stealing second. Parks scored on a Fero wild pitch.

Paradine made up for his error, driving in right fielder Derek Yalon with an RBI single to right to make it 3-1. Stony Brook broke through with a four-run seventh inning, highlighted by Leuthner’s opposite-field, two-run double to put Stony Brook in front. Paradine then capped the rally with another RBI single, scoring Leuthner and giving his team a 5-3 lead.

Reliever Brendan Pattermann gave up a run on a double play, but reliever Jack Carr slammed the door with a six-out save, the first of his career. Carr stranded both the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth by getting a groundout to end it.

Game two was disappointing in the end, as Stony Brook’s offense racked up season-highs with eight runs and 13 hits but blew a four-run lead and took the loss. Freshman pitcher Colton Book earned the start because of his incredible debut at McNeese, even if his follow-up at South Florida did not go well. Book was rocked again, allowing four earned runs on six hits while also walking four batters. He only gave them 2.1 innings before handing the ball to reliever Brandon Lashley, who kept Stony Brook in it.

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Lashley threw 84 pitches out of the bullpen for the Seawolves, going 6.2 innings and taking the game to the end of regulation. His final line wasn’t pretty — four earned runs on seven hits — but he saved the rest of the bullpen from being burnt out while giving his team a chance to win.

However, the fact of the matter is that Stony Brook held a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, and WCU tied the game off of Lashley with a sacrifice fly by first baseman Nate Stocum. Stony Brook had built an 8-4 lead after scoring six unanswered runs once Lashley took over. The middle of the lineup was particularly strong, as third baseman Evan Giordano, first baseman Brett Paulsen and designated hitter Matt Brown-Eiring combined for six hits and six RBIs. Giordano led the way with two hits and three RBIs, while Paulsen went 3-for-5 while driving in a pair.

After that run, the Stony Brook lead slowly melted away, leading to the aforementioned game-tying sacrifice fly. Right fielder Adam Kuzmicki kept the game tied by robbing a home run on the next at-bat. The run sent the game to extra innings, where WCU evened up the series on a walk-off RBI single by Parks. The hit came off of reliever Kyle Johnson, after a walk and a wild pitch put the runner in scoring position.

Game three saw an anticipated return for Stony Brook, as head coach Matt Senk was finally able to coach from the dugout after serving a nine-game suspension. The Seawolves greeted their Hall of Fame head coach with a 3-2 victory, capturing the series.

Pitcher Josh O’Neill, in his third start of the year, got the job done unusually. He only allowed one hit and two earned runs in five innings, but walked six, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch while only striking out one. 

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Half of his walks came in the bottom of the second, when WCU plated a pair to take a 2-0 lead. However, Stony Brook responded immediately, when Paradine’s RBI single cut the deficit in half. In the fifth, Giordano’s two-RBI single gave the Seawolves the lead courtesy of a Stocum throwing error.

O’Neill departed in line for the win. Senk handed the ball to Patterman in the sixth, who recorded a 12-out save by throwing four hitless innings, the first save of his career. The only baserunner he allowed came on a walk. In the entire series, Patterman threw six innings of relief and only allowed one run while racking up a win and a save. The sophomore now has a 0.84 ERA through 10.2 innings on the year.

Patterman’s performance gave Stony Brook a combined one-hitter, but with only two strikeouts and seven walks issued. Strange, to say the least, but that’s baseball. While the Seawolves only had four hits, all they needed were the two particularly big ones.

Stony Brook’s offense is beginning to get hot, averaging 5.5 runs and nine hits per game in the last four. Paradine’s 6-for-15 and Giordano’s 4-for-10 performances were vital; after only two RBIs in the first eight games of the year, Giordano drove in five in the last two. Leuthner’s season-opening hit streak was snapped at nine games on Sunday, but his on-base streak is still alive.

The Seawolves will look to keep up their pace and grab their first home win on Tuesday at 2 p.m., facing the LIU Sharks at Joe Nathan Field.

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Mike Anderson is the sports editor of The Statesman. He is a junior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y., and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.

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