Opening weekend was a mixed bag for the Stony Brook softball team, with all five games being completely different from one another.
Last weekend, the Seawolves (2-3) opened up their 2023 season down in Florida at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Paradise Classic. The tournament was five games long, with one game on Friday, followed by doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. In Friday’s game, they were blown out 10-2 by the Florida Atlantic Owls. The team swept a pair on Saturday, upsetting the No. 23 Mississippi State Bulldogs 1-0 and beating the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 8-5. Stony Brook was swept on Sunday, losing 5-0 to the Iowa Hawkeyes and 6-3 to the Loyola Ramblers.
Not much of anything went right for Stony Brook on opening day. In the bottom of the first inning, starting pitcher Ashton Melaas allowed three earned runs before retiring her first batter. An RBI single by Florida Atlantic first baseman Zoey Jones made it 4-0 Owls in the first inning. Over the next two innings, RBI hits from third baseman Jesiana Mora, designated player Riley Ennis and center fielder Riley Olson put the Owls up 7-0 through three innings.
The Seawolves’ offense could not pick up the baggage, recording only two hits through the first four innings. Stony Brook found the scoreboard in the fifth inning when shortstop Kyra McFarland grounded a two-run single right through the middle of the diamond to cut the deficit to five runs.
In the bottom of the fifth, Florida Atlantic shortstop Sommer Baker drove a two-run single to left off of pitcher Mia Haynes. Mora put the game away with a walk-off sacrifice fly, giving the Owls the eight-run mercy rule after five innings.
Although the offensive struggles continued for the Seawolves on Saturday morning, the pitching improved significantly and carried the team to its first victory.
Coming off a rough outing against Florida Atlantic, Haynes bounced back with a complete-game, six-hit shutout. She pitched to contact and relied on her defense, striking out only two hitters through seven innings.
The game’s only run came in the top of the third inning when McFarland reached on an error by Mississippi State third baseman Paige Cook. Right fielder Shauna Nuss, who singled earlier in the inning, came around to score the unearned run. Stony Brook threatened again in the next inning with a runner on second and two outs. Second baseman Sofia Chambers lined one the other way, but right fielder Kiersten Landers made a diving catch to keep the lead at just one run.
Hayes worked in and out of trouble throughout the game. In the fourth inning, with runners on second and third base with two outs, Haynes induced a foul out that preserved the Seawolves’ lead. Hayes allowed a baserunner in each of the following three innings but escaped danger each time.
With the win, Stony Brook became the first current Colonial Athletic Association program to beat a ranked opponent since 2018.
Later that day, Melaas experienced first-inning trouble once again. The Wildcats ambushed her for five earned runs on five hits in the top of the first inning. Melaas also walked a batter and threw a wild pitch.
To start the second inning, left-handed pitcher Maddie Male replaced Melaas and made her NCAA debut. She shut the door on Bethune-Cookman, giving Stony Brook’s offense the chance to mount a comeback.
In the bottom of the third inning, center fielder Alicia Orosco reached on a throwing error by the shortstop, allowing third baseman Brooke Dye to score. Three batters later, with the bases loaded and two outs, designated player Alyssa Costello came through. She cracked a double to center field and cleared the bases, cutting Stony Brook’s deficit to just one run.
Chambers followed that up with an RBI single, plating Costello and tying the game at five apiece.
Male kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning, allowing left fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski to break the tie with a sacrifice fly. In the next inning, catcher Emily Reinstein extended the Seawolves’ lead to three with a two-run triple up the right-center field gap.
Stony Brook rode Male all the way to the finish line. She chucked six scoreless innings for Stony Brook, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out two. Male earned the win, beginning her NCAA career 1-0.
Stony Brook’s offense did not carry into Sunday morning when it faced the Hawkeyes. Iowa pitcher Breanna Vasquez blanked Stony Brook through the first six innings before her counterpart — Emma Henderson — shut the door in the seventh. The pair combined to allow just two hits and a pair of walks.
The best opportunity for the Seawolves’ came in the fourth inning. Chambers stepped to the plate with runners on second and third base with the team down 1-0. However, she grounded out to end the frame, squandering the biggest threat Stony Brook built all game.
In her second start of the tournament, Haynes held Iowa in check until the top of the fifth inning. With two runners on base, Iowa shortstop Tory Bennett drove in two runs with a double. Two batters later, first baseman Sammy Diaz singled home Bennett to make it 4-0 Iowa.
Stony Brook never got back into it after that. A garbage-time run in the seventh inning put the Hawkeyes up by five, and the Seawolves completed their first shutout loss of the year.
To wrap up the tournament against the Loyola Ramblers, head coach Megan Bryant gave Male her first-career start. She faced the first struggles of her career, allowing six runs on four hits in 1 ⅓ innings pitched. However, she received no help from the Seawolves’ defense, as they made four errors, leading to all six runs being unearned.
Like Friday’s game, Stony Brook’s bats only came to life in the last inning. Held to just one run through the first six innings, the Seawolves plated a pair in the top of the seventh to make it 6-3 Ramblers. However, with the bases loaded and two out, left fielder Julianna Sanzone lined out to left field to end the game.
One bright spot for Stony Brook on Sunday was Melaas, who bounced back after two horrible outings on Friday and Saturday. Against Loyola Chicago, she pitched 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and one walk.
Six Seawolves’ players batted .300 or over in the FAU Paradise Classic. Chambers led the way for the offense, going 5-for-12 with a double, an RBI, two runs scored and three walks. Costello went 6-for-15 with a double, a triple and led the team with five RBIs. McFarland was solid, going 5-for-16 with two RBIs. Nuss added another three hits in 10 at-bats and led the team with six runs scored. First baseman Ashley Jacobson also went 3-for-10, finishing with three straight hits after starting 0-for-7.
Reinstein only played in one game but went 2-for-3 with the big two-RBI triple.
In the pitching end, Male conceded no earned runs in 8.1 innings pitched. Haynes had the biggest workload, pitching 14 ⅔ innings while allowing seven earned runs. Melaas finished with 12 earned runs allowed in 8 ⅔ innings. Stony Brook’s five opponents batted a combined .338 off of its pitching during the tournament.
The Seawolves will now get a week of rest before shifting their focus to the Norfolk/Hampton Battle At The Bay tournament in Norfolk, Va. Their first game will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 with the Buffalo Bulls. The Bulls are 1-5 on the season and are currently competing in the UTEP Invitational.