Though the rain threw monkey wrenches into the Stony Brook baseball team’s schedule, the weather did not affect it one bit.
The Seawolves (19-22, 10-11 CAA) picked up their first-ever series sweep in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) this weekend, winning three games against North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T) Aggies. The rain in the forecast forced Stony Brook to play a doubleheader on Friday, and starting pitchers Ben Fero and Josh O’Neill each tossed a complete game to clinch a series victory. Game three on Sunday wound up being moved from noon to 9:30, and starting pitcher Eddie Smink caught the Aggies sleeping to secure the sweep.
With Stony Brook winning three games and Delaware losing two out of three in their last series, the two teams are now tied for sixth place in the CAA.
Game one belonged to Ben Fero, who pitched the best game of his career. Fero allowed only one run on three hits, striking out nine batters and walking only four.
In the top of the third inning, N.C. A&T right fielder Shemar Dalton smacked an RBI double off of Fero to center field, giving the Aggies a 1-0 lead. A perfect relay throw from shortstop Matt Miceli cut down Dalton at third base to end the inning and help Fero limit the damage.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Miceli pulled an RBI double down the left-field line to tie the game. In the next inning, third baseman Evan Giordano gave Stony Brook the lead by going the other way for an RBI single.
The Seawolves distanced themselves in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Miceli extended their lead with an RBI single up the middle, first baseman Brett Paulsen scored from third base on a wild pitch by N.C. A&T starting pitcher Coley Kilpatrick. Left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring put the finishing touches on the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, giving Stony Brook a 5-1 lead.
Fero cruised after allowing the one run in the third inning. Over the final six frames, Fero allowed just four baserunners. He had great command of his three best pitches and relied on his defense, allowing him to go the distance.
“I was just trying to locate in and out and stay low in the zone,” Fero said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “I kind of just let my defense — who was obviously spectacular as they always are — do the work for me, and they did.”
Fero’s complete game was the first of his career. In his final start of the 2022 season, Fero pitched into the ninth inning but was knocked out with one out in the frame. Fero was happy to finally get over the hump and get all 27 outs.
“It felt good, I can’t lie to you,” Fero said. “Probably the best feeling I’ve had in a while.”
Just like his game one counterpart, O’Neill was stellar in the second half of the doubleheader. Game two was identical to the first, as Stony Brook overcame an early deficit and took full advantage of its dominant starting pitching.
In the top of the second inning, N.C. A&T center fielder T.J. Ash hit a sacrifice fly to center field and gave the Aggies a 1-0 lead. Stony Brook’s offense was bottled up through the first three innings by N.C. A&T starting pitcher Xavier Meachem.
However, the Seawolves broke through with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two men on, Paulsen lined one down the right-field line to clear the bases and give Stony Brook a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the sixth inning, Dalton started things off with a double and then advanced to third base on a wild pitch. O’Neill got the next hitter to ground out, but his fortunes did not hold up. N.C. A&T designated hitter Camden Jackson bounced one to shortstop, and Miceli threw home to try and gun down Dalton. However, the throw bounced in front of home plate, allowing the tying run to score.
After that, a single moved Jackson up to second base and a groundout advanced him to third. A wild pitch by O’Neill allowed Jackson to score the lead run, giving N.C. A&T a 3-2 lead.
In the home half of the seventh inning, the bottom of Stony Brook’s order set the table for second baseman Evan Fox. With the bases loaded and one out, a wild pitch by N.C. A&T relief pitcher Trent Simmons allowed Paulsen to come in and score the tying run.
Now with two runners in scoring position, Fox banged one off the glove of N.C. A&T shortstop Devon Rodriguez and into left field. Both runners came around to score, giving Stony Brook the lead for good.
“It felt great,” Fox said. “I didn’t hit it too hard, but it got the job done. I’m just happy to get that win for the guys. The pitching today was outstanding, so just to do it for those guys and my teammates was great.”
O’Neill came out and retired the next six batters he faced, pitching perfect eighth and ninth innings to lock down the 5-3 win. He only allowed three runs on five hits in nine innings pitched, striking out six without issuing a walk. It was also the first complete game of his NCAA career.
In O’Neill’s own words, everything was working for him.
“I had my changeup and my slider. I was able to constantly just mix in everything,” O’Neill said. “We played phenomenal defense today, so I didn’t have to try and do too much. Just hit my spots and let our defense play.”
The complete games were the first two by a Stony Brook pitcher since former starting pitcher Jared Milch went nine innings against Albany in the 2021 America East Conference tournament.
Head coach Matt Senk had high praise for his team after sweeping the doubleheader.
“The pitching was outstanding, and I thought we played with great energy and purpose,” Senk said. “Our defense was excellent. We had a couple of big hits. That was fun to watch.”
After getting Saturday off, Stony Brook returned on Sunday morning. Smink gave his team a quality start, holding N.C. A&T scoreless through the first six innings. N.C. A&T starting pitcher Jaheim Brown also impressed, keeping Stony Brook off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning.
With two men on and two outs in the frame, Paulsen looped one into shallow right center field. Ash laid out to make a diving catch, but the ball bounced in front of him and rolled up the gap. Both runners came around to score on Paulsen’s double, giving the Seawolves the lead.
“I was just trying to stay up the middle,” Paulsen said. “I was lucky it got down, but I’m happy we got the win. It feels pretty good to help the team out in any way.”
Miceli extended the lead with an RBI single into left field to drive in Paulsen and advanced to second base on the throw home. Catcher Ryan Micheli capped off the two-out rally with an RBI single into left field, making it 4-0.
After Smink allowed a leadoff single and an RBI double to start the seventh inning, Senk pulled him in favor of relief pitcher Nick DeGennaro. Smink finished with just one run on six hits, striking out a pair while walking only one.
Smink said that he took the advice of Fero and O’Neill, who offered him tips on how to shut down the Aggies before game three.
“They told me to make sure that I’m hitting my spots, using all three pitches that I have and to attack the zone,” Smink said. “I was kind of just focusing on pitch execution.”
Stony Brook’s offense put the finishing touches on the sweep by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
DeGennaro took the ball and never looked back. He pitched the final three innings, allowing no hits or runs while striking out four. DeGennaro only yielded a walk and a hit batsman.
He earned his first save of the year in the outing, locking down the 6-1 victory and the series sweep. Though DeGennaro used to hate coming out of the bullpen, he has settled into his role well this year.
“I’ve always hated relieving, but I’m just glad to be out there pitching again,” DeGennaro said. “So I’ll do whatever it takes. It’s cool to get the last out of the game; it’s kind of got a bad-boy thing to it so I don’t hate it.”
Stony Brook’s lineup was electric in the series. Six different hitters had a base hit in all three games. Fox went 5-for-12 out of the leadoff spot with two RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases. Brown-Eiring also went 5-for-12 and smacked his seventh home run of the year. He drove in one run while scoring four during the series. Center fielder Derek Yalon was the third Seawolf to go 5-for-12. He collected one RBI, two runs and one steal.
Paulsen had the best weekend out of anybody, going 6-for-12 with three doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored. He had two hits and one double in all three games. Miceli rounded out the group by going 5-for-10 with a double, three RBIs, two runs scored and a walk.
Stony Brook will wrap up its five-game homestand against the Fairfield Stags on Tuesday. The Stags are currently 24-14 this year after beating Sacred Heart 4-3 on Tuesday. However, they had their entire weekend series against Rider rained out. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.