Pitcher Kyle Johnson during the game against Sacred Heart on March 2. The Seawolves pulled themselves out of a four-game losing streak winning 9-1 against Iona on March 17. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

In a battle between two struggling squads, the Stony Brook baseball team trounced the Iona Gaels 9-1 on Wednesday, March 17 for its first home win of the season.

For Stony Brook (4-11), the victory snapped a four-game losing streak, while Iona (0-12) was — and still is — searching for its first win. In an early-season stretch that has not been kind to the Seawolves, they needed a game like this to get themselves feeling good for the upcoming conference season.

Usually a reliever, Kyle Johnson toed the rubber for Stony Brook, making his first career start at the collegiate level. With Stony Brook still looking for answers in the rotation, Johnson gave them a terrific first career start, tossing three scoreless innings on just 44 pitches. He struck out three, allowed only two hits, and did not issue a free pass. He earned the win despite not going five innings. 

After squandering scoring opportunities in the bottom of the first and second innings, Stony Brook’s offense came through with a gift-wrapped four runs. Center fielder Cole Durkan was caught stealing, leaving Stony Brook with the bases empty and two outs. However, back-to-back walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases for right fielder Derek Yalon, who walked in the first run of the game.

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Following that, Iona pulled starter Vicente Mendoza in favor of reliever Joey Kasper, who promptly walked the next three hitters with the bases loaded to force in three more runs. They pulled him without retiring a batter and replaced him with reliever Thomas O’Sullivan, who got Durkan to ground out to end the inning, but not before the Seawolves batted around the lineup.

Johnson was relieved by right-hander Brendan Pattermann after the 31-minute half-inning, but in a postgame interview, Johnson said that the switch was the plan all along, and it had nothing to do with the long break.

“We came into today with an idea of what we were looking at pitch-count-wise going into the weekend with conference play starting,” Johnson said. “We had an idea. My job was just to go throw zeroes.”

Pattermann bounced back from his worst outing of the year at Old Dominion by tossing a pair of scoreless innings, surrendering a pair of hits and stranding both. His ERA now sits at 2.57 for the season. 

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After a quiet couple of innings, reliever Quinlan Montgomery came out in the sixth and had the best outing of his career to this point, going three innings and allowing no earned runs on four hits, striking out six and walking one. However, he surrendered an unearned run in the eighth after some poor defense turned what had been a cakewalk into a real ballgame. Third baseman Evan Giordano booted a ground ball, and then left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring misplayed a line drive in left field to allow that unearned runner to score. With two men in scoring position, Montgomery got out of the jam and kept the score at 4-1.

The bottom of the eighth inning was another long one, as Iona’s arms failed miserably to find the strike zone, undoing the progress made in the top half.

The first two batters were hit by a pitch, and between the two came a balk. Iona was able to get the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt attempt for out number one, but it took them a while to retire another hitter. Brown-Eiring was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and then Giordano made up for his error by pulling a two-run single. It blew the game open at 6-1, but the bleeding didn’t stop there. A second balk was called, then Yalon walked to load the bases, forcing another pitching change. Fox was then hit by a pitch, and Leone followed him with another walk. One more run scored on a Leuthner sacrifice fly. Stony Brook batted around again, and took a 9-1 lead.

Reliever Andrew Ledbetter shut the door with a scoreless ninth inning, and Stony Brook secured the victory. The game officially lasted three hours and 23 minutes, with over an hour being dedicated to the bottom of the third and eighth combined. Because of their 24 baserunners, Stony Brook still left 14 men on base despite the nine runs scored. Giordano led the way for Stony Brook’s offense, as he drove in a pair and was on base four times.

“We came out with a lot of energy today,” Giordano said of his team’s performance. His two-run single was the only run-scoring base hit for Stony Brook’s offense on the day. “That was great, especially with the way our team’s been struggling and I’ve been struggling. That felt awesome to come through for the guys.” 

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Giordano was bumped to sixth in the order, but will find his way back up towards the top if he can build on this performance. However, head coach Matt Senk will probably keep this lineup the same for now, since it worked so well for them Wednesday afternoon.

“I don’t know right now that I would make many adjustments to the lineup … Right now I would say that there’s a very good chance we would probably stay with this lineup, maybe with some slight adjustments,” Senk said. 

Senk also said that as of right now, Ben Fero is slated to start game one of their next series, with Brandon Lashley to follow him. They are still determining their game three starter, and the impending weather may change the order of their rotation as well.

Overall, it was a fun game for the Seawolves’ hitters, as all nine reached base, and seven of the nine-hit safely. Giordano and Durkan both had two hits, and four different players had two RBIs each. All the batters who were beaned avoided injury, which is more good news for the Seawolves. Additionally, Leone’s two bases-loaded walks drove in the first two RBIs of his college career.

The quest for Stony Brook to live up to its first-place preseason poll finish begins on Friday when the Seawolves take on UMass Lowell (4-10) in the conference-opening three-game series.

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