A career game on Easter Sunday from starting pitcher Josh O’Neill saved the Stony Brook baseball team from suffering a series sweep.
Though the Seawolves (12-17, 4-8 CAA) were able to avoid the broomsticks, they still lost two out of three games to the William & Mary Tribe this past weekend. They came close to pulling off comebacks on Friday and Saturday, but could not get the big hits when they needed them most, losing those games 8-7 and 7-5. Luckily for Stony Brook, it salvaged the series with a 6-2 victory behind dominance from O’Neill.
In the series opener, Stony Brook was cruising on the back of starting pitcher Ben Fero. Fero only allowed one run on three hits through the first five innings and had retired 10 batters in a row heading into the top of the sixth.
Once that half-inning came, Fero ran out of gas. He lost control of the strike zone, allowing a single and two walks to load the bases while also throwing a wild pitch in between. With the bags juiced and only one out, William & Mary head coach opted to enter catcher Nate Goranson as a pinch hitter and the move paid off.
Goranson crushed a three-run double halfway off the right-center field wall to turn Stony Brook’s 2-1 lead into a 4-2 deficit. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Seawolves cut their deficit in half with a solo home run from left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring out to left-center field.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Tribe put up another three spot on just one swing to extend their lead. Facing relief pitcher Quinlan Montgomery, William & Mary designated hitter Ben Williamson crushed a three-run homer to the same place as Brown-Eiring to make it 7-3. Williamson put the game out of reach in the next inning by bouncing into an RBI fielder’s choice to hand Stony Brook a five-run deficit.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Seawolves made a valiant last-minute effort to win but fell one step short. With the bases loaded and one out, designated hitter Shane Paradine poked a softly-hit RBI single just over the head of William & Mary second baseman Noah Zertuche. Following Paradine, Brown-Eiring wore a hit-by-pitch on his right wrist to drive in another run.
Already with a home run on the day, center fielder Derek Yalon lined a two-RBI double into the right-center field gap to make it a one-run game. However, with the tying and winning runs in scoring position with only one out, first baseman Brett Paulsen and right fielder Jason Campo both struck out swinging to end the comeback attempt.
Though Stony Brook never laid down, head coach Matt Senk was disappointed with the hole it dug itself into.
“They’re wanting to win, and their practicing and efforts are never an issue,” Senk said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “As consistent as that is, we consistently do things to beat ourselves. Five of the eight runs they scored came off free bases, and it’s tough to win like that.”
Game two brought more of the same for Stony Brook, as it had a chance to win a close game but could not get over the hump.
William & Mary controlled the whole first half of the game, jumping out to a 4-1 lead by the top of the fifth inning. The Tribe got to starting pitcher Eddie Smink early and often, scoring four runs on six hits off of him in just 4 ⅓ innings of work. However, once relief pitcher Sadier Vicioso took the mound in his place, Stony Brook woke up.
Vicioso battled in and out of trouble in each inning he worked through. Though the freshman southpaw allowed five walks (one intentional) and four hits during his stint, he stranded eight of those baserunners and surrendered just one run.
Senk commended Vicioso’s efforts on Saturday.
“Sady [Vicioso] competed,” Senk said. “To Sady’s credit, when he gave a free one away, he came back and made a pitch and got guys out. He did a good job.”
With Vicioso holding William & Mary at bay, the Seawolves rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning after a run-scoring error and a pinch-hit two-run single from Campo. In the next inning, Brown-Eiring broke the tie with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
Unfortunately for Stony Brook, the lone run that Vicioso allowed came back to haunt it. William & Mary left fielder Lucas Carmichael tied the game with an opposite-field RBI single off of Vicioso in the top of the eighth. Relief pitcher J.T. Raab entered the game in the top of the ninth inning and tossed a dominant 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts, keeping the game tied at five apiece.
With the top of the order batting in a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the ninth, Stony Brook squandered its chance to win in regulation, sending the game to extra innings. In the top of the 10th inning, William & Mary center fielder Joe Delossantos lined a go-ahead two-run double to give his team the lead and ultimately win the game.
In desperate need of a win, and with starting pitchers Jared Bellissimo and Nick DeGennaro still not up to speed, Senk turned to O’Neill for game three of the series. He overmatched the Tribe, surrendering only one earned run on four hits and three walks. He struck out a career-high 10 batters during his 7 ⅓ innings pitched.
Stony Brook held a 1-0 lead through the first four innings before tacking on three more in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the seventh inning, center fielder Matt DeStefano ripped a two-run single into left field for his third hit of the game to give the Seawolves a commanding 6-0 lead.
O’Neill finally cracked in the eighth inning, leading to his departure. Left-handed relief pitcher Jerek Hobb took over and struggled with his command, getting only four outs while allowing a run and five baserunners. He loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, allowing the Tribe to bring the tying run to the plate.
Senk turned to relief pitcher Kyle Johnson, who promptly struck out Delossantos on three pitches to earn the save.
O’Neill had his whole arsenal working for him on the mound, allowing him to mow down William & Mary’s bats.
“I was just able to establish the zone early,” O’Neill said. “It was a great day to pitch with the wind blowing in. I had everything: fastball, slider and changeup command. I was mixing, throwing down in the zone. It was great.”
O’Neill’s start on Sunday was the first of his career against a conference opponent. Though he has acknowledged a comfortability in pitching out of the bullpen in the past, O’Neill said that it does not matter how his team uses him.
“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “Whatever way I can help the team.”
Senk said after the win that O’Neill will stay in the starting rotation for the time being.
Still in a platoon in center field, DeStefano made a strong claim for more playing time. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and all of his hits came with two strikes.
“I was just really being disciplined in the zone,” DeStefano said. “I was in my two-strike approach, shortening up, just trying to put the ball in play and not strike out.”
Brown-Eiring had arguably the best weekend of all the Stony Brook bats. He went 3-for-9 with a home run, four RBIs, three runs scored, two walks and three hit-by-pitches.
Stony Brook will get Monday off before traveling to West Point, N.Y. to take on the Army Black Knights. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The Black Knights are 19-12 this year and are currently riding a six-game winning streak after sweeping Lehigh in three games over the weekend.