After an eventful weekend series, the Stony Brook baseball team played in yet another game that went down to the wire at the LIU Sharks on Tuesday, March 22.
Originally scheduled for Wednesday but moved up a day to avoid potential bad weather, Stony Brook (7-12) was on the wrong end of late-game heroics this time as LIU’s walk-off home run led to a 3-2 defeat in Brookville, New York.
Stony Brook came into the game averaging 7.6 runs per game over the last five, but their bats were silenced by LIU’s strong pitching. The Seawolves were able to draw first blood in the top of the first, when a triple by second baseman Evan Fox set up a sacrifice fly by catcher Shane Paradine to make it 1-0.
Relief pitcher Andrew Ledbetter made his first career start on the mound for Stony Brook, but could not find the strike zone. He walked a batter in each of the first two innings, but got out of both innings unscathed by inducing a pair of double-play ground balls. However, his control issues finally came back to bite him in the bottom of the third inning when he walked the bases loaded. Right-hander Josh O’Neill came out to relieve Ledbetter, finishing his day after just 2.1 innings. Two of those runners wound up scoring, and both of those runs were earned to Ledbetter. LIU led 2-1 after three innings.
Starter Garrett Yawn pitched a good game for LIU, giving the Sharks five strong innings, allowing just three hits with no walks. However, in the top of the fifth, the red-hot third baseman Evan Giordano hit an opposite-field home run to tie the game at two apiece. It was the third straight game in which Giordano hit a game-tying home run, and it was his team-leading fourth home run and 18th RBI of the year.
Now pitching in a tie game, O’Neill bowed his neck for the Seawolves. He kept LIU off the scoreboard and kept the game tied, giving his offense a chance to take the lead. In relief, O’Neill had the best game of his career, giving the Seawolves 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and three walks. However, LIU’s bullpen did more of the same.
LIU relievers Shane Tucker and Josh Gainer combined to pitch three scoreless innings with six strikeouts between the two, keeping Stony Brook at just the two runs. O’Neill traded zeros with them before handing the ball off to lefty Devin Sharkey. He got out of trouble by stranding a pair in the eighth, sending the 2-2 game to the ninth.
In the top of the ninth inning, Stony Brook had a prime scoring chance with the bases loaded and two outs. However, reliever Nick Torres was able to strike out right fielder Derek Yalon to strand the runners.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Sharks were able to avoid extra innings when center fielder Giovanni Ciaccio pulled a walk-off home run to right field off of Sharkey. The longball gave Stony Brook a taste of its own medicine and the 3-2 loss snapped its four-game winning streak.
It was the second time that LIU beat Stony Brook this year, after a 10-6 game on March 8 at Joe Nathan Field. The Seawolves have struggled mightily in their non-conference games, as they are just 3-12 against opponents outside of the America East.
Some other notes from the game: Fox had two hits, extending his hitting streak to eight games. He also stole a pair of bases, improving to a perfect 9-for-9 this year. The Seawolves defense was very steady on Tuesday, as they committed no errors behind a pitching staff that only struck out three batters.
The team will now get two days to rest and travel. Their next game is on Friday, which will kick off a three-game series between them and Maine up in Orono. Maine, like Stony Brook, swept its opening conference series over Binghamton. The Seawolves’ bats will look to bounce back from their down performance in hopes of taking sole possession of first place in the America East.