Though it took almost six hours on Sunday to do so, the Stony Brook softball team picked up a huge series win to give itself a shot at the playoffs.
The Seawolves (22-24, 7-13 CAA) played through the rain all weekend in Maryland against the Towson Tigers. Stony Brook had a successful weekend, splitting a doubleheader on Saturday with a 5-3 loss and a 7-1 win before taking the rubber game 7-6 on Sunday.
The series victory brought Stony Brook within a half-game of Monmouth for the final spot in the CAA tournament. The top seven seeds are already locked up, and the Seawolves and Hawks will battle next weekend to determine who gets the eighth slot in the playoffs.
Stony Brook led 1-0 through the first four innings after first baseman Ashley Jacobson singled home a run in the top of the first. Starting pitcher Mia Haynes held the Tigers off the board through the first four innings, but their bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth.
Towson loaded the bases with three singles and did not squander the opportunity. With two outs, Towson shortstop Mackenzie Lake brought them all home, blasting a go-ahead grand slam over the left field wall to make it 4-1. The bottom of the sixth inning saw the Tigers tack on an insurance run. Third baseman Ally Hickman ripped an RBI double into right field for yet another two-out RBI to make it 5-1.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Seawolves fought hard to come back, cutting the deficit to two after back-to-back RBI doubles from second baseman Sofia Chambers and center fielder Alicia Orosco. Stony Brook got the tying run after a single by left fielder Alyssa Costello and a walk by Jacobson, and the two advanced on a wild pitch by Towson starting pitcher Maddie Gardner. However, their best efforts were not good enough, as designated player Corinne Badger struck out to end the game.
After being named Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Pitcher of the Week last week and going five straight outings without giving up an earned run, Haynes struggled in the later innings against Towson. Haynes pitched all six innings, allowing five runs, eight hits and a hit-by-pitch while striking out three batters.
Stony Brook flipped the script in game two of the doubleheader, controlling it from start to finish.
Following a tough stretch in which she allowed 17 earned runs in her last 18 ⅔ innings pitched, starting pitcher Ashton Melaas bounced back in a big way against Towson. Melaas was dominant in the circle, hurling a complete game while allowing just one run, four hits, two walks and a hit batsman while striking out three batters. The win improved Melaas’ record to 8-13.
Similar to the first half of the doubleheader, the Seawolves drew first blood immediately. Badger — who moved to catcher for the second game — collected a two-out RBI single in the top of the first inning to put Stony Brook on top. After her, designated player Julianna Sanzone and shortstop Naiah Ackerman strung together two more two-out RBI singles to jump out to an early 3-0 lead.
After that, Towson starting pitcher Cheyenne Beayon settled down and traded zeros with Melaas for the next four innings.
Stony Brook completely put the game away in the top of the sixth inning with its second offensive explosion of the game. With a runner on, Sanzone singled home a run through the middle of the diamond for her second RBI of the contest. Third baseman Brooke Dye then picked up her first hit of the game to drive in Sanzone, making it 5-0 Stony Brook.
Towson pulled Beayon from the game in favor of relief pitcher Morgan Wagner, who did not fare much better. Wagner threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score and then gave up an RBI single to Costello to make it a 7-0 ballgame.
Lake sent her second home run of the day over the center field fence in the bottom of the sixth to break up Melaas’ shutout, but that was all the Tigers were able to muster up against her.
In the rubber game, the Seawolves won an exciting 11-inning back-and-forth affair. Due to two rain delays and four extra innings of work, the game lasted five hours and 45 minutes.
With Gardner back on the mound for game three, the Seawolves jumped on her early once again. In the top of the second inning, Badger launched a no-doubt home run over the left field fence to make it 1-0. Stony Brook quickly doubled its lead when Dye dumped a bloop hit into left field to score an unearned run.
Following a rain delay, the Seawolves took a commanding lead when right fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski came through and blasted a three-run home run to put Stony Brook up 5-0 in the top of the fifth inning. However, this lead was not big enough to put the game away.
Following a successful outing on Saturday and four scoreless innings to start Sunday’s game, Melaas imploded in the bottom of the fifth inning. After allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach base, Towson second baseman Cori Jones ripped a two-RBI double to left field to cut the deficit to 5-2.
With two on and two out, Towson designated player Addie Ferguson singled to center field to make it 5-4. Melaas was finally pulled from the game after Towson first baseman Kristin Toland tripled home Ferguson to tie the game at five.
Haynes came in to make her first relief appearance of the series with the leading run at third base and immediately surrendered an RBI single to Hickman, giving the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
Melaas’ final line was not pretty. In 4 ⅔ innings pitched, Melaas was charged with six earned runs on eight hits. She issued four walks while striking out four batters.
The Seawolves were not done yet. When down to their final out in the top of the seventh inning, Kupinski came through again with a clutch RBI single to tie the game 6-6.
After a number of missed opportunities to score for each side and an on-field maintenance delay in the top of the 11th, Stony Brook finally recaptured the lead. With the bases loaded and Beayon pitching in relief, Ackerman delivered an RBI single to give the Seawolves a 7-6 lead they did not relinquish.
Haynes delivered a fantastic performance in relief. Haynes bent, but did not break, as she allowed five hits and eight walks in 6 ⅓ innings of relief. However, she did not allow a single run and struck out three to improve her record to 13-7 on the season.
Though the Seawolves received key contributions from up and down the lineup, Costello stood out above the rest. Costello loaded up the statsheet, going 7-for-13 with three doubles, a triple, an RBI, three runs scored, a walk and a stolen base. She also made a spectacular diving catch in left field in game one.
Badger also had a terrific series at the plate, going 4-for-12 while hitting her team-leading 11th homer of the season. She also collected a double, two RBIs, three runs scored, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Once again, Orosco did a good job out of the leadoff spot, going 4-for-11 with two doubles, an RBI, three runs, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly.
After sitting in game one, Sanzone closed out the series with two strong performances. She went 5-for-9 with a double, two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk in the series. Dye also had a good series, going 4-for-11 with two RBIs, two runs and a walk. Batting at the bottom of the order, Chambers went 3-for-10 with a double, an RBI, a run and a walk.
Though Ackerman has seen her playing time decrease over the last couple of weeks, she may have earned herself some more chances over the final four games. She sat in game one but went 3-for-8 with a walk, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs in the games following.
Head coach Megan Bryant did not speak to the media following the series.
Before the Monmouth series, Stony Brook will look to continue its recent success this Wednesday in Queens, N.Y. against the St. John’s Red Storm. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. The Red Storm are 19-26 this year and have won their last two games, but their scheduled series for this past weekend was canceled due to rain.