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Walk-offs power Stony Brook baseball to UMBC sweep

Reliever Josh O’Neill leaping to catch the ball and beat the runner while covering first base. O’Neill earned a three-inning save in the final game of Stony Brook’s sweep of UMBC. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

A few timely swings from a couple of Seawolves hitters propelled Stony Brook baseball to a sweep of UMBC.

The season series is over now between Stony Brook and UMBC. The Seawolves (23-22, 17-7 AE) won five of their six meetings against the Retrievers, including all three this past weekend and are above .500 for the first time this season. The bats were quiet until they needed a big hit, while the arms were stellar all series. They are now just two games back of first-place Maine with six conference games to go.

Game one was moved up five hours on Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., but the bats were awake early on. Stony Brook drew first blood in the bottom of the first after catcher Shane Paradine’s RBI double and left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring’s RBI single. However, UMBC starting pitcher Jayden Shertel settled down after that.

Shertel kept Stony Brook’s offense off the board for the next six innings. His strong performance opened the door for UMBC to come back and tie the game at two. But it did not come easy for UMBC’s offense, either.

Starting pitcher Ben Fero tossed a quality start, going six innings and allowing only two earned runs. In the second inning, he was involved in a sensational play along with first baseman Brett Paulsen. Paulsen dove for a ground ball hit by catcher Tony Krueger, then bounced it over to Fero from the seat of his pants. Fero then scooped the low throw on the run while trying to cover first base. The Seawolves got the out, and the play wound up being ranked third on the SportsCenter Top 10.

In the top of the eighth, UMBC first baseman Luke Trythall broke the tie with a home run, but Stony Brook responded in the bottom when third baseman Evan Giordano worked a nine-pitch at-bat and homered to left-center field. The two-run shot gave Stony Brook a 4-3 lead and a new single-season career-high for Giordano, his eighth of the year.

With UMBC down to their last out, right fielder Ian Diaz tied the game with an RBI double. That sent the game to the bottom of the ninth inning, where shortstop Stanton Leuthner needed only one pitch to win it. He lined the first pitch of the inning down the left field line for a walk-off homer to give Stony Brook the 5-4 win. It was the first walk-off RBI of Leuthner’s college career.

Game two was postponed until Sunday, turning Mother’s Day into a doubleheader for Stony Brook. Game one started at noon and featured yet another pitcher’s duel that yielded the same result.

Starting pitcher Brandon Lashley had the best outing of his career, as he went seven innings and only allowed two earned runs on five hits. Those two runs came on a disastrous play in the fourth inning, when shortstop Drew Roberts hit a soft line-drive to right field that turned into a little league home run.

Right fielder Derek Yalon slid for the ball, but it landed in front and bounced over him. This allowed one run to score and Roberts to wind up on third with a triple. However, second baseman Evan Fox held the ball for too long, and Roberts alertly scored as well.

Opposite Lashley, starter Luke Johnson tossed a good ballgame for UMBC. He allowed only two runs — one earned — in six innings. The strong pitching from both sides sent the seven-inning game to extras tied at 2-2. In the bottom of the eighth, Stony Brook loaded the bases and Paradine won it for the Seawolves with an RBI single to left field.

“He threw a first-pitch changeup, and I knew he was going to come back with a sinker for the second pitch,” Paradine said. “I was right, and I hit it in the gap. Happy to come through for my team when they needed me.”

Like Leuthner, it was Paradine’s first career walk-off.

Game three was the second game of the doubleheader. Once again, Stony Brook got a gem from their starter. This time, it was left-hander Colton Book.

Book allowed no earned runs in six innings of work. However, his defense betrayed him in the fourth inning, as back-to-back errors with two outs led to three unearned runs scoring. That tied the game at three apiece.

In the sixth inning, Stony Brook took the lead and never looked back. A slow ground ball to first base proved to be too much for UMBC, as center fielder Cole Durkan beat the pitcher to the bag with a head-first slide. The lead run scored on the play, and Stony Brook jumped ahead 4-3.

A couple of RBIs in the seventh inning from Paradine and Brown-Eiring extended the lead to 6-3, giving reliever Josh O’Neill ample run support to finish the game. O’Neill pitched three scoreless innings and earned the save for Stony Brook.

With the sweep, Stony Brook has not lost a home game to UMBC since April 21, 2018. On a weekend in which his offense only compiled 19 hits, head coach Matt Senk gave credit to the strong pitching performances.

“This was a ‘pitching and defense’ kind of day with the wind blowing in the way it was,” Senk said. “What [the pitchers] all did a pretty good job of was limiting their walks. When you force people to hit the ball into the teeth of the wind like they did, that’s going to work to your advantage.”

Owners of a season-high six-game win streak, Stony Brook will head up to Binghamton (16-25, 12-12 AE) to face the only team that has taken a conference series from the Seawolves. In the home stretch of their regular season title race, Stony Brook must win its games and get some help from Albany and Hartford against Maine along the way.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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