With its playoff hopes on the line, the Stony Brook softball team swept its final series of the year to clinch a spot in the 2023 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) softball tournament.
Coming into the regular season finale at University Field, the Seawolves (25-25, 10-13 CAA) were in ninth place in the CAA standings and trailed the Monmouth Hawks by a half-game. They took care of business on Friday by sweeping the doubleheader with a pair of walk-off hits, winning 1-0 in game one and 5-4 in game two. With a chance to keep moving up the ladder, Stony Brook secured the seventh seed in the CAA tournament with a mercy-rule 9-1 victory.
Game one was a pitcher’s duel from the get-go, as both teams struggled to generate much of anything on offense. In the top of the fourth inning, Monmouth had a great chance to break through with runners on second and third and two outs. However, starting pitcher Mia Haynes stranded both runners when she got Monmouth first baseman Julia Thuer to strike out swinging.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, a pair of one-out singles by left fielder Alyssa Costello and right fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski put the Seawolves in prime position to score the go-ahead run. Monmouth starting pitcher Billie Kerwood escaped the jam unscathed by getting first baseman Ashley Jacobson to roll over and ground into an inning-ending double play.
After Haynes pitched a perfect top of the seventh inning, Badger led off the home half of the frame and blasted a 1-1 pitch over the right-center field wall to win the game.
Badger knew she was the right player for the job in that moment.
“Just having the mindset that no one is better in that situation,” Badger said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “Also just wanting to have a productive at-bat for my team.”
Haynes dominated the Monmouth lineup in game one. Badger’s walk-off homer left Haynes with a complete game shutout, allowing only five hits across seven scoreless innings. Despite not overpowering the Hawks, Haynes induced soft contact for the entire game and left all five runners on base. She struck out only one batter and did not issue a walk or a hit-by-pitch.
Haynes had good feel for her breaking pitches, which allowed her to successfully pitch to her defense all game long.
“Just really trusting my spin,” Haynes said. “Spin over speed and that’s what I did and trusting my infield behind me.”
In game two, Stony Brook jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to some small ball. With runners on the corners and one out, Jacobson dragged a bunt past the pitcher’s circle to bring home center fielder Alicia Orosco on an infield single.
After being held scoreless through the first ten innings of the doubleheader, the Hawks finally found the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. With the bases loaded, Monmouth right fielder Kiley O’Rourke slapped a one-out RBI single into left field.
One batter later, Thuer came through with an RBI single to right field, and another run scored on the play after Kupinski bobbled the ball, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead. The Seawolves escaped the inning after Thuer was caught in a rundown trying to steal second.
In the bottom of the inning, Stony Brook cut its two-run deficit in half when shortstop Naiah Ackerman lined a solo homer to center field to make it a 3-2 game.
Badger came up clutch yet again in the bottom of the sixth inning when she worked a full count and crushed a solo home run to even things up at 3-3. The tie was short-lived, as starting pitcher Ashton Melaas served up a leadoff homer to Thuer in the next inning, giving the Hawks a 4-3 lead and knocking her out of the game. Haynes came back to replace her and stranded a pair of runners to keep Stony Brook within a run.
In Stony Brook’s last chance in regulation, designated player Julianna Sanzone singled to lead things off. Third baseman Brooke Dye laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to move Sanzone into scoring position. Second baseman Sofia Chambers had a chance to be the hero, but she grounded out to third base and failed to advance Sanzone.
Down to its last out, Stony Brook tied things up on a wild sequence. With Kerwood back in the circle and now pitching in relief, she skipped a wild pitch to the backstop, allowing Orosco to advance to third base. Monmouth catcher Abby Warner did not know exactly where the pitch bounced and was unable to locate the ball, allowing Orosco to sprint home and score the tying run.
The game went into extra innings, where Haynes pitched a 1-2-3 top of the eighth to give Stony Brook a chance at another walk off. Costello opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a bunt single and then stole second base. She advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from right fielder Shauna Nuss.
With the winning run on third base and only one out, Monmouth brought the infield in for Jacobson, who flared a popup just beyond the middle infield. Going back over her head, Monmouth shortstop Bri Lawson dove to try and save the day, but Jacobson’s popup fell in for a base hit and scored Costello to send the Seawolves to the postseason.
Jacobson approached the at-bat with a simple mindset, to which she credits for her success.
“Just put something hard in play,” Jacobson said. “Don’t overthink and do something simple and good things will happen.”
The doubleheader sweep secured a playoff berth for Stony Brook and improved it to 11-5 over the previous four weeks. After game two, head coach Megan Bryant said she has been pleased with her team’s performance over this past stretch.
“I’m really proud of this group,” Bryant said. “We showed a lot of character and a lot of fight, we’ve been playing good the last few weeks and have come together at the most important time.”
Game three was all Seawolves from the jump. Jacobson started the scoring in the bottom of the first inning with a long RBI single off the top of the center-field wall. Badger then clobbered a two-run homer to put Stony Brook up 3-0.
Monmouth scored its lone run in the top of the third inning when third baseman Riley Riendeau stole home after center fielder Mackenzie Bloss drew a throw while stealing second base. Stony Brook responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from Costello and an RBI single from Badger.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ackerman grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and nobody out, but a run still scored on the play to make it 6-1 Stony Brook.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Jacobson lined a two-run single into right field to score Chambers and Orosco. Now leading 8-1 with runners on the corners, Badger pulled an RBI single into left field to drive in Nuss. Once Nuss scored, the mercy rule was invoked and Stony Brook walked off for the third-straight game.
Along with the playoff berth, the series sweep brought the Seawolves back to .500 for the first time since March 4. Badger said the team was able to find itself after a slow start, leading it to its in-season rally.
“We showed a lot of grit and resilience,” Badger said. “We did not start out hot in the CAA, but we brought it back and found our team.”
Badger hit the cover off the ball all weekend. She went 5-for-8 with three home runs, six RBIs, three runs scored and two walks. She now has 14 homers on the year, good for first in the conference.
Costello was a hitting machine once again over the weekend, going 6-for-11 with two doubles, an RBI, four runs and a stolen base. Her continued hot streak has raised her average to a team best .378, which is good for second in the CAA.
Jacobson put together another solid weekend, she went 5-for-10 to go along with her five RBIs, a run scored, a walk and a steal. Orosco hit safely in all three games, going 4-for-11 with two runs scored.
In the circle, Haynes flourished against the Hawks and picked up two more wins. Overall, she tossed nine scoreless innings, allowing just six hits and no walks. The two wins bring her total to 15 on the year, second best in the conference.
After finding itself on the outside looking in for the majority of the season, the Seawolves peaked at the right time, something Bryant is proud of.
“You want to be playing your best ball during this time of the year and this team is doing that,” Bryant said. “We’re going to go into the tournament and take one game at a time and continue to compete.”
Despite being the final team to clinch a CAA tournament berth, the Seawolves earned the seventh seed after Elon swept North Carolina A&T over the weekend. Stony Brook will open the postseason against the sixth-seeded Charleston Cougars on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Edwards Stadium, the home of the Hofstra Pride. The Cougars are 19-31 overall this year and 11-12 in CAA play.