It was the Evan Fox show from start to finish on Tuesday, as he broke the Stony Brook baseball team’s all-time stolen base record before winning the game with his first-career walk-off RBI.
In their second midweek matchup of the year with the Iona Gaels, the Seawolves (16-22, 7-11 CAA) won a sloppy game 11-10 in 10 innings. Neither team threw many strikes and both made costly mistakes, leading the game to be over three hours long.
Fox led the game off by pulling a double into left field. After that, he stole third base to give himself 79 for his career, tying Travis Jankowski’s career stolen base record. A couple of pitches later, a breaking ball tipped off the glove of Iona catcher Anthony Febo and trickled to the backstop, allowing Fox to trot home with the game’s first run.
On that same pitch, third baseman Evan Giordano drew a walk. Following Fox’s lead, Giordano stole second and later came around to score on an RBI single by designated hitter Shane Paradine.
Iona scratched across a run in the top of the second inning to cut Stony Brook’s lead in half. In the bottom half of the inning, Fox reached on a fielder’s choice, leaving an open base right in front of him. With the stolen base record in sight, he took full advantage of the opportunity. Fox took off for second base and arrived safely with a head-first slide. Febo did not even bother contesting Fox’s steal attempt, as he simply lobbed it back to Iona starting pitcher Michael Untracht.
After the play, Fox tried to remove the base from the ground for safekeeping, but quickly gave up on it as he received a standing ovation from the small crowd and his teammates.
“I love my teammates for saying ‘You’re going to get it today. Today’s the day,’” Fox said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It was always in the back of my head. I kind of had a feeling that it was going to happen today. All I needed to do was get on base. I was excited, and I knew I was going to get on and go because I wanted to get it today.”
In the top of the fourth inning, relief pitcher Cade Thompson came in and struggled mightily. He allowed a two-run homer to Iona right fielder Jake Field to give the Gaels a 3-2 lead. After that, Thompson gave up two walks and a base hit to load the bases. He plunked Febo with a pitch to force in a run before allowing a sacrifice fly to Iona second baseman Phoenix Bowman, extending the Gaels’ lead to 5-2.
Stony Brook got one run back with a sacrifice fly from Paradine in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Field launched another two-run homer in the top of the fifth to make it 7-3 Iona. The Seawolves got back within a run with a three-spot in the bottom of the fifth inning to make it a one-run ballgame.
In the top of the sixth inning, relief pitcher Sadier Vicioso made a mistake that almost buried Stony Brook. With runners on first and second, Bowman laid down a bunt that Vicioso picked up. Second baseman Johnny Pilla moved over to cover first base, but Vicioso fired it way over his head and down the right field line.
The ball rolled all the way into the corner, but right fielder Matty Wright got the ball to first baseman Brett Paulsen, who made a perfect relay throw to cut down Bowman at the plate.
Naturally, Iona’s pitching did not hold the 9-6 lead. Paulsen and Pilla both singled in a run, setting up Fox with a game-tying sacrifice fly. That tie was immediately broken in the top of the seventh inning when Bowman lifted his second sacrifice fly of the day to make it 10-9 Iona.
Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning, catcher Chris Leone took it upon himself to change the game. He wore a pitch off his front shoulder to reach base and then put the pressure on Iona’s defense by stealing second.
On the steal attempt, Iona catcher Chris Mariani — who entered the game as an injury replacement for Febo — airmailed his throw into center field, allowing Leone to advance to third base on the error. However, Iona center fielder Nick Forney bobbled the ball while backing the throw up, letting Leone come around to score the tying run.
The game wound up going into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Fox pulled a hard-hit single through the left side and into left field, allowing shortstop Anthony Gentile to come around third base and score the winning run.
The walk-off hit was the first of Fox’s NCAA career. Traditionally a team who engineers plenty of comeback victories, this was only the first walk-off win of the year for Stony Brook.
Capping off his historic day, Fox was ecstatic to play the hero role for his team.
“It was awesome,” Fox said. “We’ve had some chances earlier in the year. We’ve been on the losing side of those. To come out on the good side, it felt good to do it for the guys.”
Fox finished his legacy game 2-for-5 with a double, a sacrifice fly, two RBIs and one run scored. After stealing bases number 79 and 80, he swiped a third bag in the bottom of the ninth inning as the lead runner in a double steal alongside Giordano.
Head coach Matt Senk showed his pride in Fox after the game.
“I’m a big Evan Fox fan, not only as a player but as a person,” Senk said. “I’m ecstatic for him, and I’m looking forward to him doing more of what he does for the rest of the year.”
Fox’s heroics partially overshadowed a very poorly-played game. Iona’s pitchers issued 16 walks and three hit batsmen while also throwing five wild pitches. Stony Brook’s pitchers were sloppy too — seven walks and three hit batsmen — but its mistakes were also glaring on the basepaths.
Pilla was picked off in the second inning, and Gentile was caught stealing in the eighth after he slowed down while running to second base.
Iona’s poor pitching created some of the strangest statlines Stony Brook has seen this year. Gentile and Leone both reached base safely in all six of their plate appearances but combined to take only one official at-bat.
Gentile went 1-for-1 with a slowly-hit infield single while also drawing five walks. He also stole one base and scored three runs. As for Leone, he went 0-for-0 with four walks and two hit-by-pitches. He stole three bases and scored two runs.
Giordano was a beneficiary of Iona’s wild arms as well. He went 0-for-2 with four walks, an RBI, a run scored and three stolen bases. When it came to actually swinging the bat, Paulsen had the best day, as he went 3-for-6 with an RBI and two runs.
Pitching out of the bullpen, relief pitcher Jared Bellissimo earned his first win as a Seawolf. He pitched the final two innings without allowing a run, surrendering just two hits and a walk while striking out two.
Stony Brook will remain at Joe Nathan Field this weekend when it hosts the North Carolina A&T Aggies for a crucial three-game series. The Aggies are 17-20 this year and 9-10 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Though they lost their last game 12-2 to Queens University of Charlotte on Tuesday, they swept William & Mary last weekend.