Some of the Stony Brook baseball team in the dugout during the LIU game on March 8. The Seawolves are 5-1 in their season so far, leaving them in the top spot of their conference. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

As with most sports, there are some early overreactions. A lot of outsiders viewing the box scores of Stony Brook baseball from February and early March may have been concerned or even doubted the Seawolves. However, now that conference play is in full swing, Stony Brook has picked up right where they left off and has all the chance in the world to continue to ascend. 

A 4-11 start is dreadful; nobody’s saying it’s not. However, as is usually the case, Stony Brook played some rather good teams during the only non-conference section of their schedule. They played a 2021 Super Regional contestant in the USF Bulls and also played a ranked team in Old Dominion (well, ranked by at least one outlet). To no surprise, the Seawolves were swept in both series.

Also, they were constantly traveling, playing 12 of their first 14 games down south. Head coach Matt Senk has also acknowledged that they were still testing things out in those games — seeing what worked and what didn’t. Granted, those last two things may be more on the “excuses” side, but they should not be discounted.

However, it’s the games that really count. Sure, the America East banned them from postseason contention, but they still can earn a first-place finish as they were projected to. And so far, they are on the right track. 

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They swept UMass Lowell in a ridiculously competitive, back-and-forth series that included back-to-back walk-off wins. They traveled up north to frigid Orono, Maine and took two-out-of-three to start the conference season 5-1. That series victory over Maine was big, because not only was it on the road, but it came against the only other team with an opening-series sweep in the America East. Currently, they sit atop the AEC standings alongside their bitter rivals, the NJIT Highlanders.

So how did the Seawolves get here? How have they been able to turn it around? Well, let’s start here: their bats are scorching hot. In their six conference games, Stony Brook is hitting .319 as a team with a .540 slugging percentage. Their offense is averaging 8.9 runs per game since March 13, which was their last game against Old Dominion. Against Maine alone, they hit .310. 

There are several hitters in the red-hot lineup that are really fueling this fiery streak. It always starts with third baseman Evan Giordano, who was struggling in the earlier half of their schedule. He is currently on an eight-game hitting streak, hitting .457 (16-for-35) since March 16.

During that time, he has delivered some of the Seawolves’ biggest hits. He clutched up with game-tying home runs in back-to-back days during those walk-off wins against Lowell. His first game-tying homer set up center fielder Cole Durkan’s walk-off home run, as the two went back-to-back to win game two of that series. 

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Giordano’s tying home run the next day sent the game to extra innings, where he won it with a bases-loaded walk. He won the America East Player of the Week award that week and followed it up with another game-tying homer in a loss to LIU on March 23. Against Maine, he went 5-for-15. He is currently slashing .302/.388/.477 and leading the team in home runs (four) and RBIs (21).

Stony Brook’s other Evan is red-hot as well: second baseman Evan Fox. He has hit safely in 14 of 16 games played this year and is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak. He is hitting .333 over that span. He already has three home runs this year, including a grand slam against Sacred Heart that started this hitting streak. He only had one all of last year, but the sophomore’s power boost has given him the team lead in slugging percentage at .515.

Of course, speed is his strength, and he is currently 12-for-12 in stolen bases already. He stole 22 bases as a freshman and is on pace to steal 28 bases right now. Fox is currently slashing .279/.380/.515 on the year and trending upwards.

The Seawolves have two other guys who have been models of consistency: shortstop Stanton Leuthner and catcher Shane Paradine. Paradine currently leads the team on average at .319 after going 7-for-13 at Maine, and he has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games. Leuthner has been their most consistent hitter, as he has been over .300 for most of the year. He has also been on base in almost every game, as his 14 walks lead the team. He currently leads the Seawolves with a .422 on-base percentage. 

Other guys have stepped up and played their parts very well in that Seawolves’ lineup, such as first baseman Brett Paulsen and left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring. Paulsen is typically an opposite-field hitter, but he has added the ability to pull the ball to his hitting tool belt. This past week was rough for him, but he has seen his average as high as .318 this year. 

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Paulsen is currently hitting .274 for the Seawolves and playing an excellent first base so far. Brown-Eiring has been reliable in his own right, hitting .268 and leading the team in doubles (seven) and triples (two). His nine extra-base hits co-lead the Seawolves along with Fox, and his .476 slugging percentage places him only behind Fox on the team leaderboard. He also has four three-hit games this year. 

Coming off a year in which they had four outstanding starting pitchers, the Seawolves have scrambled to find someone reliable to eat innings. Nick DeGennaro was the only holdover from that staff but is out for the year after undergoing elbow surgery. Ben Fero has been consistent for them this year, although he did just have a blowup start against Maine. Pitcher Brandon Lashley, who missed 2021 while recovering from Tommy John Surgery, has been up-and-down overall. However, the stats do him no justice, as he has battled in every outing and has given the Seawolves some good innings. He has earned the trust of Senk, and just delivered the best outing of his career on Saturday.

Starter number three is a revolving door, but Quinlan Mongtomery just made a strong case for it to be him. It appears these questions have finally been answered in the rotation.

As for the bullpen? Well, there is still more waiting-and-seeing to be done. Brendan Pattermann has been excellent — a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings — but the rest have been unreliable. Kyle Johnson has been inconsistent overall this year. He was outstanding in 2021 and has shown flashes this year. If he can get right, this team may very well be unstoppable.

But of course, there needs to be a reliable third bullpen arm as well. And who will that be? Andrew Ledbetter has a .194 batting average against but has walked 14 hitters in 10 innings. Josh O’Neill has struggled this year as well. Jack Carr had some good outings early but has been roughed up since then. Devin Sharkey was the second-best reliever on the team last year but has been hit hard this year. Maybe a freshman steps up? One of these guys is going to have to in order for this team to beat out NJIT for the top spot in the conference. 

Currently, with Stony Brook and NJIT at 5-1, the top of the conference is as expected. After that, Maine and UMBC are even at 4-2, after UMBC swept Hartford. Albany and UMass Lowell are both 2-4 after NJIT swept Albany. Binghamton and Hartford are the cellar-dwellers, sitting at 1-5 each. Here’s why all of this matters: Stony Brook can feast on them all.

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