Though the seventh-seeded Stony Brook softball team knocked off the Colonial Athletic Association’s (CAA) top team, its season came to an end at the hands of its crosstown rivals.
The Seawolves’ (29-27, 10-13 CAA) gutsy run in the 2023 CAA softball tournament finally met its bitter end on Friday when they suffered their second loss of the postseason. Stony Brook knocked out the top-seeded Delaware Blue Hens with a 1-0 victory before moving on to face the third-seeded Hofstra Pride. The team made a bid to upset the Pride in their own home stadium, but fell short and lost 9-8.
In its first game of the day, Stony Brook struck immediately in the top of the first inning against Delaware pitcher Taylor Wroten. With the bases loaded and two outs, shortstop Naiah Ackerman pulled a ground ball to the left side of the infield. Delaware shortstop Chloe Blantz made the backhanded pickup and tried to get the force out at third base, but she sailed her throw and allowed a run to score.
That lone run was all that starting pitcher Mia Haynes needed. The Seawolves’ ace pitched a gem and mowed down Delaware’s lineup. She tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout. Over her seven innings of work, Haynes struck out two batters and walked five.
Delaware threatened to respond in the bottom of the first inning, but Haynes stranded a pair of runners to protect Stony Brook’s 1-0 lead. Haynes went into cruise control after that, retiring the next 10 hitters. In the bottom of the fifth inning, she walked Delaware designated player Grace Hrustich to snap her streak.
Two batters later, a second walk put Haynes in another jam, but she induced a comebacker from Delaware third baseman Hanna Garber and threw her out to retire the side.
The Blue Hens’ best opportunity against Haynes came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Delaware loaded the bases with one out, but Haynes pitched to her defense to get out unscathed. She got Blantz to bounce into a fielder’s choice, as second baseman Sofia Chambers got the force at home plate to save a run. After that, Haynes got Delaware pinch hitter Syndey Shaffer to fly out to right field.
Haynes slammed the door on Delaware’s season in the bottom of the seventh inning, setting up another postseason edition of the Battle of Long Island.
After winning a pitcher’s duel, Stony Brook engaged in a shootout with Hofstra.
Starting pitcher Ashton Melaas took the circle and her recent struggles continued. With two runners on base in the bottom of the first inning, Hofstra shortstop Meghan Giordano sent an RBI double into right field to give the Pride an 1-0 lead.
In the ensuing at-bat, Hofstra first baseman Angelina Ioppolo bounced into a fielder’s choice that scored another run. Chambers attempted to throw Hofstra center fielder Chelsea Manto out at the plate, but she beat the tag.
With one out and two runners in scoring position, Hofstra catcher Becca Vaillancourt hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Giordano. Hofstra third baseman Alanna Morse capped off the four-run first inning with an RBI single.
In the top of the second inning, Stony Brook’s offense began to chip away at the Pride’s lead. Consecutive two-out hits put two runners in scoring position for the Seawolves, and center fielder Alicia Orosco singled both in to halve their deficit. Left fielder Alyssa Costello then drove in Orosco with an RBI single to bring them within one run.
In the bottom of the second inning, Giordano hit a sacrifice fly to extend the Pride’s lead to two runs. However, Stony Brook responded again in the top of the third inning.
With Hofstra relief pitcher Nikki Mullin in the circle, the Seawolves tied the game up. With runners on the corners and one out, designated player Julianna Sanzone knocked a single into right field to make it a one-run ballgame. Two batters later, Chambers came through with a two-out RBI single into left field to tie the game at five apiece.
The tie did not last very long, as the Pride responded right away. After three-straight singles loaded the bases with nobody out, Hofstra pinch hitter Olivia Malinowski broke the tie with an RBI fielder’s choice.
Two batters later, with the bases still loaded and only one out, Hofstra second baseman Kasey Collins drove a fly ball to deep left-center field. Orosco tracked it down and made the catch, but the ball was deep enough for two runners to tag up and score, making it 8-5 Hofstra.
Haynes relieved Melaas in the bottom of the fourth inning. In her three innings of work, Melaas allowed eight runs on seven hits while striking out one batter and walking two.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Haynes finally allowed her first run of the day. With two runners on base, Hofstra right fielder Madison McKevitt poked a single into right field to give the Pride a crucial four-run cushion.
Despite their best efforts, the Seawolves were unable to complete another comeback. With two runners on and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, right fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski blasted a three-run home run off of Hofstra relief pitcher Julia Apsel to make it a one-run game. However, Apsel bounced back and got first baseman Ashley Jacobson to line out, ending the game and Stony Brook’s season.
After replacing Melaas, Haynes pitched well in relief. In three innings, she allowed just one earned run on five hits while striking out and walking one batter each.
Offensively, it was a record-breaking day for Costello. Between the two games, she went 4-for-8 with an RBI. Her 12 hits through Stony Brook’s six playoff games set the CAA softball record for most hits in the tournament.
Orosco also had a nice day at the plate. She went 3-for-7 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. Kupinski was productive as well, going 1-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs, two runs, two hit-by-pitches and a sacrifice bunt.
The bottom of the Seawolves’ order was also effective. Chambers went 2-for-6 with a double, an RBI, a run scored and a walk. Third baseman Brooke Dye went 3-for-7 with a run scored.
Though Stony Brook’s inaugural CAA season has ended without a championship, head coach Megan Bryant is pleased with the way the year ended.
“What a great run our team had in our first CAA Championship,” Bryant said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We fought hard to get into this tourney and continued to battle here all week long. You want to be playing your best ball at the most important time, and we did just that. We have so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to.”