Three blowout losses in a row spoiled the Stony Brook baseball team’s trip to California this past weekend.
It was a cross-country journey to forget for the Seawolves (0-3), who were swept by the Cal State Northridge Matadors to open their 2023 season. Stony Brook was welcomed rudely with a 20-5 beatdown on Friday and dropped the series with a 14-4 loss on Saturday. The team found no consolation on Sunday, losing 8-2 to complete the sweep.
Game one started off perfectly for Stony Brook. Center fielder Evan Fox led the game off with a single and moved up to second base after a four-pitch walk to second baseman Anthony Gentile. With one out in the inning, catcher Shane Paradine singled Fox home through the right side for the game’s first run.
In the bottom half of the frame, starting pitcher Ben Fero got the opening day nod and pitched out of first-inning trouble to take a 1-0 lead into the second inning.
Then the Matadors woke up.
In the bottom of the second inning, Cal State Northridge second baseman Shunsuke Sakaino tied the game with an RBI double to left-center field. After a four-pitch walk to center fielder Jakob Simons loaded the bases for the Matadors, catcher Graysen Tarlow changed the game with one swing. Tarlow cracked an opposite-field grand slam off of Fero to put Cal State Northridge up 5-1.
Stony Brook scored a run in the top of the third inning to chip away at the deficit, only for the Matadors to hang another crooked number in the bottom half of the frame. An RBI single by Sakaino followed by a single by Simons knocked Fero out of the game after just 2 ⅓ innings. Reliever Brendan Pattermann came in to relieve him, only for him to get rocked, too.
Back-to-back RBI singles and a walk set up shortstop Ali Camarillo with the bases loaded. Just like Tarlow an inning before, Camarillo blasted a grand slam to make it 12-2 Matadors in just the third inning. From there on out, the game was all devoted to stat-padding.
The Matadors added another seven-run inning two innings later, handing Pattermann a finishing line of nine earned runs in just two innings pitched. J.T. Raab replaced him on the mound and wound up pitching the next 2 ⅔ innings for the Seawolves. In his NCAA debut, Raab allowed three earned runs on five hits while striking out three.
Tarlow was a problem for Stony Brook all day. Batting out of the two-hole, Tarlow went 5-for-5 with a double, a home run, six RBIs and three runs scored.
Left-handed starting pitcher Jared Bellissimo made his Stony Brook debut in game two, and it did not go well. The Matadors plated five runs off of him in the first inning by using small ball. Five singles mixed with a wild pitch and an error by Gentile helped bury the Seawolves before they could catch their breath.
Stony Brook scored twice in the third to cut its deficit down to three runs, but Cal State Northridge returned the favor with a pair of its own in the second half of the inning. During that inning, head coach Matt Senk pulled Bellissimo in favor of reliever Josh O’Neill.
O’Neill was beaten up by the Matadors as well. He failed to strand his inherited runners in the third inning, and then allowed seven earned runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the game out of reach. Like Bellissimo, his season debut lasted only 2 ⅓ innings.
O’Neill’s control was his worst enemy, as he walked three batters, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch during his outing.
A bright spot for the Seawolves was reliever Brandon Lashley. Stony Brook’s two-starter from 2022 looked sharp out of the bullpen, tossing 3 ⅓ scoreless innings while allowing only three hits and one walk. He also struck out four hitters while finishing the game for his team.
Though the pitching was bad in game two, the defense was no help. The Seawolves committed five errors, forcing their pitching staff to work harder than necessary.
Game three was less of a disaster, yet yielded the same result for Stony Brook. The silver lining was that starting pitcher and staff ace Nick DeGennaro officially made his return from Tommy John Surgery.
DeGennaro pitched well in his return to the mound, allowing two earned runs on four hits through five innings. In his first appearance since Feb. 25, 2022, he struck out three and did not issue a walk.
DeGennaro’s strong pitching gave his team a chance to win. However, the offense was not up to the task. A first-inning two-run homer by Paradine was the only scoring Stony Brook did on Sunday, leading to DeGennaro receiving a no-decision.
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, freshman reliever Eddie Smink replaced DeGennaro and struggled in his NCAA debut. With two outs, Smink walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases. Cal State Northridge head coach Eddie Cornejo decided to pinch-hit Tarlow, and the move paid dividends. Tarlow broke the tie with a two-run single to right field, giving his team a two-run lead.
Stony Brook failed to catch up, allowing the Matadors to put the game away in the eighth inning. In yet another bases-loaded opportunity, Cal State Northridge broke the game open with a two-run single from shortstop Kamau Neighbors. Simons followed him with an opposite-field, two-RBI triple to put the Matadors ahead by six.
Stony Brook’s early-season rust was very apparent this weekend. Offensively, the team never compiled more than nine hits in any of the three games. Defensively, the team committed seven errors. On the mound, 10 different pitchers combined to allow 40 earned runs in 24 innings, good for a 15.00 ERA. Cal State Northridge batted .391 against Stony Brook’s pitching staff.
The Seawolves did have a couple of solid performances on offense. Left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring went 4-for-10 with a double and a walk. He led the team with four runs scored. Paradine had his power stroke working, going 3-for-11 with a double, a home run and three RBIs.
Shortstop Matt Miceli went 3-for-9 with a double and an RBI. Outfielder Matt DeStefano went 3-for-7 despite only starting one of the three games.
Stony Brook will look to bounce back this upcoming weekend in Alabama, where the team will take on the Troy Trojans. The Trojans are 3-0 after sweeping a high-scoring three-game series against Evansville this past weekend.