Though it played its best series of the year, the Stony Brook baseball team was swept for a third-straight week to open the 2023 season.
The Seawolves (0-9) are off to their worst start in exactly 10 years. After being swept in three games by the No. 13 University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels, Stony Brook has lost each of its first nine games. This start is identical to the 2013 season when Stony Brook started 0-9 after making a run to the College World Series the year before.
Stony Brook opened the series with a 3-2 loss in extra innings on Friday. The team lost the series and had a comeback attempt halted with a 7-5 loss the next day. After playing UNC close for the first six innings on Sunday, the wheels fell off and Stony Brook lost 15-4 to complete the sweep.
Game one was the closest Stony Brook has come to a win all year. Starting pitcher Jared Bellissimo had a strange start, but did well enough to give his team a chance to win. The left-hander allowed only one run on two hits while striking out five hitters over five innings. However, he did walk seven hitters, forcing him to throw 110 pitches and be pulled before the sixth inning.
Scoring started in the bottom of the fourth inning when UNC shortstop Colby Wilkerson singled home the game’s first run. In the top of the sixth inning, left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring tied the game with his first home run of the year: an opposite-field home run to right center.
The Tar Heels took the lead back in the bottom of the seventh inning when catcher Tomas Frick hit a solo home run off of relief pitcher Josh O’Neill. Stony Brook responded immediately with a home run from center fielder Evan Fox, tying the game 2-2 in the top of the eighth.
O’Neill pitched well on Friday. His strong performance allowed Stony Brook to take the game to extra innings, where it ultimately fell. Leading off the bottom of the 11th inning, UNC third baseman Mac Horvath walked it off with a home run to left field.
O’Neill was good for Stony Brook, aside from his two mistakes. He allowed only two earned runs on just five hits in five innings pitched. His control was much better, as he only walked one hitter while striking out two.
Stony Brook’s offense mustered up nothing against UNC starting pitcher Max Carlson. In 7 ⅓ innings pitched, Carlson allowed only two runs on just five hits while striking out seven and walking two. After that, the bullpen was even better. UNC relief pitchers Ben Peterson, Cameron Padgett and Matt Poston combined to pitch 3 ⅔ hitless innings out of the pen.
Horvath started game two the same way he ended game one, smashing a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to give UNC a 1-0 lead. The early home run allowed was a sign of things to come for starting pitcher Ben Fero, who did not fare well in his second start of the year.
Fero struggled on Saturday, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits in three innings pitched. In the bottom of the third inning, he allowed a two-run single to UNC designated hitter Alberto Osuna, putting Stony Brook in a 3-0 hole.
Stony Brook found the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning when second baseman Johnny Pilla hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Brown-Eiring. However, UNC left fielder Patrick Alvarez handed Stony Brook a four-run deficit by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After that home run, head coach Matt Senk pulled Fero from the game in favor of reliever Brandon Lashley. Lashley suffered the same fate as Fero, as he allowed a two-run home run to UNC first baseman Hunter Stokely in the bottom of the fifth inning.
While trailing 7-1 in the top of the seventh, third baseman Evan Giordano sparked a rally with a two-run homer — his first home run of the season. Relief pitcher Quinlan Montgomery pitched two perfect innings on just 19 pitches to keep the score at 7-3.
Stony Brook continued to chip away in the top of the ninth inning with an RBI single from designated hitter Shane Paradine and a run-scoring groundout from first baseman Brett Paulsen. UNC reliever Matthew Matthijs shut the door on Stony Brook’s rally, inducing a flyout from Pilla to end the game.
Senk skipped starting pitcher Nick DeGennaro this weekend and opted to start freshman right-hander Eddie Smink in game three. In his first-career start, Smink struggled, allowing five earned runs in the bottom of the second inning before being pulled from the game. Smink allowed five earned runs in just 1 ⅔ innings on four hits and three walks.
Relief pitcher Kyle Johnson put out the fire for the time being and allowed Stony Brook to slowly crawl back into it. Johnson spotted the Seawolves the next 4 ⅔ innings out of the bullpen and pitched into the seventh.
During that time, Fox hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning to get Stony Brook on the board. In the top of the fifth, catcher Chris Leone hit the first home run of his NCAA career to cut their deficit down to three.
In the bottom of the fifth, UNC responded by scoring an unearned run. Pilla committed an error that allowed Horvath to reach base, and he wound up coming to score on a fielder’s choice, making it 6-2 UNC.
Stony Brook took advantage of UNC’s defense in the top of the sixth to cut its deficit down to two runs. Paulsen reached on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to score a run, and right fielder Matty Wright reached on a throwing error by second baseman Jackson Van De Brake to score another.
After Johnson allowed back-to-back baserunners with one out in the seventh, Senk entered reliever Brendan Pattermann. That mistake came back to bite Stony Brook, as Pattermann allowed a three-run bomb to Van De Brake to give UNC a 9-4 lead.
The Tar Heels iced the game by scoring six runs off of reliever Sadier Vicioso in the bottom of the eighth inning, four of which were unearned due to an error by Giordano. The nine runs in the final two innings turned what was once a two-run game into a blowout.
Fox was Stony Brook’s only standout player this week. Fox went 6-for-14 with two doubles, two home runs, two RBIs and two runs scored. He was the only Seawolf to hit safely in all three games.
Senk did not speak to the media after any of the three games.
As the weather gets warmer and winter comes to a close, Stony Brook will get to start playing teams from closer proximity. The Seawolves’ next game will be on Tuesday in the Bronx, N.Y. against the Fordham Rams. Fordham is also winless, currently sitting at 0-10 this year after being swept by North Florida in four games.