Though right fielder Matty Wright made an appearance on the SportsCenter Top 10 list, that was overshadowed by the Stony Brook baseball team’s series loss.
In their first-ever home series as members of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the Seawolves (8-13, 2-4 CAA) lost two out of three games against the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks. Stony Brook split a doubleheader with a 7-2 loss and a 7-4 win on Friday before losing 9-3 on Sunday.
Game one was all UNCW. The Seahawks drew first blood in the top of the second inning when center fielder Tyler Marsh pulled a solo home run. Right fielder Derek Yalon almost robbed it, but the ball bounced off his glove and into Stony Brook’s bullpen, giving UNCW an early 1-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Ben Fero never found his groove against the Seahawks’ tough lineup. He pitched 5 ⅔ innings for Stony Brook, but allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits. He only struck out two batters while also walking three and hitting one.
Fero did not get much run support, either. Opposite him, UNCW starting pitcher Jacob Shafer mowed down Stony Brook without much of a fight. The Seahawks’ 6-foot-7, 235-pound ace retired the first 10 hitters he faced and took a no-hitter into the bottom of the fifth inning. Yalon broke up the no-hitter with an infield single that barely left the batter’s box.
Shafer went 6 ⅔ innings for UNCW, allowing only one run on two hits while striking out five and walking two. By the time he departed, the Seahawks had already built a 7-0 lead.
Immediately after Shafer left, first baseman Brett Paulsen broke up the shutout with an RBI single into left field, with the run being charged to Shafer. Stony Brook scored another garbage-time run in the bottom of the eighth inning when center fielder Evan Fox scored on a wild pitch.
But the Seawolves did not have a miracle left in them, and UNCW slammed the door on game one.
Stony Brook was limited to just four hits in the series opener, which was a season low. Head coach Matt Senk said that the team put too much pressure on itself against Shafer.
“We did not swing the bat well,” Senk said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “That kid threw the ball well. I think we took on the persona that we had to do more against him than was necessary. That kind of snowballs.”
Stony Brook swung the bat much better in game two and pulled off a comeback to force a rubber game on Sunday.
Starting pitcher Jared Bellissimo finished with an unimpressive final line, but was solid for Stony Brook on the mound. In the top of the third inning, Bellissimo allowed back-to-back tape-measure home runs to UNCW first baseman Tanner Thach and right fielder Alec DeMartino. However, he threw strikes and worked out of trouble for most of his 4 ⅓ innings of work.
In the bottom of the third inning, Stony Brook’s offense finally woke up when Fox singled home Yalon to halve its deficit. Now trailing 2-1, third baseman Evan Giordano gave his team its first lead of the day with a towering two-run homer to left field.
Now staked to a 3-2 lead, Bellissimo kept Stony Brook ahead until the top of the fifth inning. With one out, UNCW left fielder Dillon Lifrieri lined an RBI single to right field to tie the game. After allowing a single to his next batter, Bellissimo was pulled in favor of relief pitcher Josh O’Neill.
O’Neill stranded a pair and kept the game tied 3-3 until the top of the seventh when Lifrieri launched a solo bomb to give UNCW the lead back. However, Stony Brook answered immediately with its speed.
Fox lined a one-out double into left-center field and advanced to third base on a groundout. Struggling with his control, UNCW relief pitcher Aubrey Smith threw a wild pitch to the backstop that allowed Fox to score the tying run.
O’Neill tossed a scoreless top of the eighth inning, preserving the 4-4 tie. Leading off the home half of the eighth, first baseman Paulsen lined one into right field that DeMartino laid out for, but could not corral. The ball landed in front of him and bounced past him, rolling all the way to the wall and allowing Paulsen to reach third base with a triple.
After that, Yalon fell behind 0-2 before punching an RBI single past the third baseman and into left field to break the tie. Yalon’s go-ahead hit proved to be the game-winner.
“I mean, it felt awesome,” Yalon said. “All of the guys have been supporting me and the coaches. So it felt great to get this win today.”
Stony Brook did not stop there. Senk sent first baseman Jason Campo up to the plate to pinch hit for second baseman Anthony Gentile. The move paid dividends, as Campo was hit by a pitch and then pulled in favor of pinch runner Matty Wright. Wright stayed in the game to play right field, while Yalon moved to center field.
With runners on first and second and two out, shortstop Matt Miceli cleared the bases with a two-run triple into the left-center field gap.
Now with a three-run lead, O’Neill walked the leadoff hitter but came back by getting a strikeout and a groundout. With UNCW down to its last out, Lifrieri lined one into shallow right field, but Wright came on and made a sensational diving catch to secure the victory.
The next day, Wright’s catch was featured at number four on the SportsCenter Top 10 list.
O’Neill gave Stony Brook another great outing. He pitched 4 ⅔ innings out of the bullpen, allowing only one earned run on three hits. He struck out four hitters and walked just one.
O’Neill attributes his performance to his confidence.
“I came in calm. No moment’s too big for me,” O’Neill said. “I trust my stuff, I know it’s going to get people out, so I don’t have to do anything more than that.”
Game three was over before it started for Stony Brook. About 10 minutes before the game began, starting pitcher Nick DeGennaro informed the coaches that his arm was not feeling well enough to throw. Instead, Senk and company turned to starting pitcher Brandon Lashley, who struggled in his short start.
Lashley allowed a two-run double to Thach in the top of the first inning to start the scoring. In the next inning, he allowed back-to-back RBI doubles to put Stony Brook in a 4-0 hole. After getting just four outs, Lashley was pulled in favor of relief pitcher Jerek Hobb.
Hobb faced six batters and retired none of them. He allowed three hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch while also failing to strand his one inherited runner. Four earned runs scored off Hobb before relief pitcher Eddie Smink came in to replace him. By that point, Stony Brook was already down 9-0 in the top of the second inning.
Smink dominated UNCW’s lineup, pitching 6 ⅔ scoreless innings. During his outing, he only allowed one hit, three walks and a hit-by-pitch. He retired the final 10 hitters he faced.
Unfortunately for Stony Brook, UNCW starting pitcher Zane Taylor also dominated. He allowed only three runs on six hits in six innings, punching out five and walking two. After him, UNCW relief pitchers Ethan Chenault and Brett Banks combined to pitch three scoreless innings to hand the Seawolves a series defeat.
After falling behind 9-0 in the top of the second, Stony Brook outplayed UNCW for the rest of the game. The Seawolves outscored the Seahawks 3-0 over the final seven innings.
Senk expressed pride in his team for continuing to fight after getting jumped early by UNCW.
“Giving up the big inning has been probably the number one issue we’ve had in the majority of our losses,” Senk said. “A big inning can take a lot out of a team, and our guys keep fighting and competing. I wish that big inning hadn’t happened … but it isn’t from a lack of our guys competing.”
Stony Brook was held to seven hits on Sunday and batted just .213 in the series. Senk tipped his cap to UNCW’s arms for slowing down his bats, but expressed confidence in them moving forward.
“I think their pitching had a lot to do with our bats not being what they were a couple of games ago,” Senk said. “We just have to keep hanging in there, and I think they will and they have to this point. We’re going to keep working at it, that’s for sure.”
Fox and Yalon were Stony Brook’s best hitters over the weekend. Fox went 5-for-12 at the plate with three doubles, two walks, two RBIs, three runs scored and four stolen bases. Yalon went 4-for-9 with a double, two RBIs, two walks, two runs and two steals.
Stony Brook will stay at Joe Nathan Field for a nonconference game against the Iona Gaels on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. This game is a makeup game from Tuesday, March 14. The Gaels are 4-16 this year after sweeping a doubleheader from Villanova on Sunday.