First baseman Brett Paulsen looking for the ball during the Albany game on April 8. Stony Brook is now at the top of the American East conference after their win against Albany. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

First baseman Brett Paulsen bounced back from an 0-for-5 Friday to lead the Stony Brook baseball team past its bitter arch-rivals with a 7-for-8 finish in the series.

“Any time, winning a conference weekend is good, but when it’s Albany, or hopefully next week with Binghamton, whenever it’s in-state, it feels a little bit sweeter, so we’re going to enjoy this one,” Paulsen said. “This game is all mental. I was able to put Friday behind me, use the scouting reports we have, and let it do the work. So, I had a pretty successful final two days.”

Stony Brook (14-16, 9-3 AE) took sole possession of the top seed in the conference over the weekend as it won its series over the Albany Great Danes. The Seawolves’ pitching had a great bounceback, while the offense and defense maintained their stellar play.

The series opened up with a 12-3 trouncing of Albany (15-12, 5-7 AE) on Friday. Starting pitcher Ben Fero bounced back from two rough starts in a row to pitch a solid game. Fero gave Stony Brook five quality innings, allowing only two earned runs on five hits. He earned his second win of the year using a three-pitch mix that Albany could not figure out while facing him.

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“Coming into it, Ben had a pretty tough last two starts. Today, you could tell on his face that he was locked in,” catcher Shane Paradine said. “We worked with a three-pitch mix; fastball, curveball, changeup … We worked on our offspeed, located our fastball, and that’s how we got outs today.”

While Fero tossed zeroes for the Seawolves, the lineup went to work. Against Albany starter Ray Weber, the offense strung together four runs in the first. The offense came out raking, as it took a diving catch from Albany’s first baseman Will Feil just for the Great Danes to record their first out. Paradine started the scoring with an RBI double down the left-field line and was immediately followed by a two-run double from right fielder Matt Brown-Eiring. Shortstop Stanton Leuthner singled him home to complete the first inning four-spot.

Everything went Stony Brook’s way in this game, as center fielder Cole Durkan ran down a deep fly ball and caught it right up against the batter’s eye to save a run in the top of the second. The play was met with controversy, as Albany head coach Jon Mueller argued the ball hit the wall. However, the call stood in Stony Brook’s favor.

Fero came back out to start the sixth but was pulled with two men on in favor of reliever Brendan Pattermann. Pattermann surrendered a two-run double to right fielder Michael Whalen to cut the score to 5-2.

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Brown-Eiring hit an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth, his third double and third RBI of the day, as Stony Brook padded its lead.

“Our approach was that [Weber] would live middle-away, and he did,” Brown-Eiring said. Brown-Eiring now leads the team in doubles (11) and RBIs (25).

Leuthner continued the scoring with a no-doubt home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Left fielder John Daly did not even turn around to watch it fly. The home run tied Leuthner for the team lead alongside third baseman Evan Giordano and Brown-Eiring.

That same inning, left fielder Evan Fox was robbed of a three-run homer when Daly leaped up and knocked the ball back in play. It still fell for Fox, who could leg out an RBI double. Paradine then put the game out of reach with a two-run double to left field. Pattermann recorded his third save of the year with a four-inning outing.

Game two was a disappointment, as the Seawolves shot themselves in their collective foot to lose 5-3. It was a competitive, back-and-forth game, but the Seawolves never led despite several comeback attempts.

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Starter Brandon Lashley looked for a bounceback start and saw mixed results. He looked good early and got some swings and misses. However, his bugaboo was that he let the bottom of the order beat him. Lashley overall went 4.2 innings, striking out six and walking two. He allowed three earned runs, all of which were driven in by the eight and nine hitters.

Stony Brook played tit-for-tat with Albany, answering each of Albany’s first two scoring innings. The Danes went up 2-0 before Durkan lifted a two-run homer to right field to tie it up. In the top of the fourth, Daly struck again with an opposite-field home run, but Paulsen tied it in the bottom half with an RBI single.

Tied at three in the seventh, Albany would take the lead for good with back-to-back RBI doubles from Feil and shortstop Brad Malm. The hits came off of lefty Colton Book, who only allowed three hits in 4.1 innings out of the bullpen, but those two wound up being enough for Albany.

While on the comeback trail, Stony Brook literally ran itself out of the game.

With the tying run on first base in the bottom of the ninth inning and nobody out, head coach Matt Senk called for a double steal with Giordano at the plate. Left fielder Idris Carter, who was the lead runner, was caught stealing at third base on a pitch that was called strike two. Giordano promptly struck out on the next pitch, and then Paradine grounded out to end the game. After getting the first two hitters on base with nobody out, the Seawolves played with fire and got burned. Senk took responsibility for the play after the game and provided an in-depth description of the thought behind it.

“Those were attempted steals that I put on, so if there’s going to be any blame, it would be with me,” Senk said. “I felt that we couldn’t have two better guys to steal bases right there, and I felt that with him throwing predominantly curveballs that it would be a good pitch to run on. His time to the plate wasn’t particularly quick, and I didn’t want to have Evan [Giordano] sac bunt. I wanted him to swing away.”

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The Seawolves bounced back big the next day, winning the rubber game 10-5. Quinlan Montgomery started and dominated early, but struggled after that. He pitched three perfect innings with six strikeouts, striking out two batters in each of his first three innings. Then, Albany’s bats woke up.

Stony Brook led 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning, as Paulsen provided a two-run double in the bottom of the first. However, Malm tied the game with a two-run homer, his 12th of the year. The Seawolves took the lead right back in the bottom of the fourth when Leuthner scored on a passed ball.

Now up 3-2, Montgomery ran into more trouble. After Whalen gave Albany its first lead with a two-run single in the fifth, Senk pulled him for righty Josh O’Neill, who limited the damage, giving the Seawolves a chance to rally again.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Seawolves loaded the bases with nobody out against Albany starter Anthony Germinerio. After Durkan struck out swinging, the designated hitter David Alleva came to the plate and attacked the first pitch. He smoked a two-run single down the right field line to put the Seawolves in front.

“It was a first-pitch changeup. He beat me with a changeup all game. He struck me out twice with it. I knew he was coming right back with it, so I was just sitting on it,” Alleva said postgame.

After Alleva’s go-ahead hit, second baseman Matt Miceli laid down a perfect safety-squeeze bunt to drive in another run and move Alleva up to second base. An RBI double by Fox and a Malm bobble on a Giordano infield single helped Stony Brook score five runs in the inning.

With two outs and the bases empty in the top of the ninth, Albany catcher Chris Fisher smoked a line drive back up the middle, but O’Neill snagged it to clinch the series victory for Stony Brook.

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Senk was much happier after game three and was very complimentary about his team’s performance to start the conference season.

“These four weekends have really been enjoyable as a coach,” Senk said. “To see them come together and be their own team — the ‘22 team — has been really great to see. It makes me excited for the next couple of weekends.”

With four days off until their next series, which is home against the Binghamton Bearcats (7-19, 4-8 AE), the Seawolves can catch their breath now.

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