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Stony Brook softball to face one of three potential teams in next round of CAA tournament

The Stony Brook softball team huddles before its game on Saturday, May 6 against Monmouth. The seventh-seeded Seawolves are waiting to see which of the three teams they will face in their next CAA playoff game tomorrow. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After winning its second elimination game in as many days, the seventh-seeded Stony Brook softball team now finds itself in a waiting game to see who its next opponent will be.

After beating Elon 2-1 on Wednesday to stay alive in the 2023 CAA softball tournament, the Seawolves (27-26, 10-13 CAA) will be back in action at Bill Edwards Stadium on Thursday at 5 p.m. Their next opponent is not set in stone, as it will be determined by the two games that take place earlier in the day.

On Thursday, the top-seeded Delaware Blue Hens will face the fifth-seeded Towson Tigers at noon. At 2:30 p.m., the second-seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks will square off against the third-seeded Hofstra Pride. The lower seed of the two losers of those games will have to take on Stony Brook in a win or go home matchup at 5 p.m.

Since the Blue Hens earned the top seed in the tournament, it is guaranteed that they will not be facing the Seawolves if they lose to the Tigers. However, matchups with Towson, UNCW and another showdown with Hofstra all remain possibilities for Stony Brook.

Stony Brook’s struggles with Hofstra are well-documented. After being swept by the Pride in the regular season, the Seawolves lost 5-2 to Hofstra on Wednesday, setting up their matchup with Elon.

If Stony Brook has to face UNCW, it will certainly have its hands full. Though the Seahawks are under .500 with a 23-25 record, they dominated in conference play by going 17-7. In its regular season meeting with Stony Brook, UNCW won two out of three games back in April.

UNCW is powered by two-way star Janel Gamache. In 15 appearances (12 starts) in the pitcher’s circle this season, the 2023 CAA Player of the Year and 2023 All-CAA First Team selection owns a 1.50 ERA, which leads the conference. Gamache also currently ranks second in home runs allowed (three) and third in both batting average against (.208) and fewest walks allowed (16).

On top of her incredible stats as a pitcher, Gamache has been just as good with the bat this season. She ranks fifth in the CAA in batting average (.360), on-base plus slugging (.992) and triples (three). She is also sixth in slugging (.574), seventh in doubles (11) and eighth in on-base percentage (.418).

The Seahawks’ pitching staff led the way for the team this season. UNCW currently sits atop the CAA rankings in team ERA (2.51) and strikeouts (315), and it ranks second in batting average against (.237).

Along with Gamache, UNCW starting pitcher Kara Hammock was also dominant. As a fellow All-CAA First Team member, she sits just behind Gamache on the CAA ERA leaderboard by sporting a 1.79 mark through 22 appearances (15 starts). Hammock is fourth in the conference in walks allowed (18), sixth in batting average against (.222) and eighth in strikeouts (85) and home runs allowed (5).

UNCW starting pitcher Emily Winstead was also effective. In 19 appearances (13 starts), she ranks 11th in the conference with a 3.27 ERA and ranks second in the CAA in batting average against (.198).

The Seahawks offense has been close to the middle of the pack in most categories. They rank fourth in the CAA in both batting average (.266) and slugging percentage (.374), sixth in runs scored (185) and seventh in both on-base percentage (.322) and home runs (19).

One of UNCW’s best offensive players has been second baseman Tayler Vitola, who earned 2023 All-CAA Second Team honors this season. She boasts a .377 batting average, which is the sixth-highest in the conference, and ranks ninth with 12 stolen bases.

UNCW left fielder Arial Pearce also put together a strong year to earn a All-CAA First-Team selection. She batted .315 with an .812 on-base plus slugging and is third on the team with 22 RBIs.

Another player to look out for is UNCW shortstop Mary Sobataka, as she has been the Seahawks main run producer this season. Sobataka ranks 10th in the CAA in RBIs (27) while carrying a .266 batting average. Also, UNCW outfielder and designated player Elizabeth Winstead — Emily’s sister — has been effective as a part-time player for them this year. She has only played in 18 games and logged 54 at-bats, but has batted .333 and was the team’s leadoff hitter against Stony Brook when the teams met in the regular season.

Towson would also represent a challenge for the Seawolves. The Tigers own a 28-23 record this season and they went 14-10 against CAA opponents. Stony Brook did find success against Towson this season, as it took two out of three games from the Tigers in late April.

The Tigers rank first in the CAA in team batting average (.288), runs scored (242) and on-base percentage (.356) while trailing only Stony Brook in slugging percentage (.410).

Towson is led by All-CAA First Team shortstop Mackenzie Lake. She ranks first in the CAA in batting average, raking at a .395 clip. She also leads the conference with five triples and 40 runs scored. Lake also ranks third in on-base plus slugging (1.036), RBIs (36) and on-base percentage (.437) while placing fourth in slugging percentage (.599).

Towson center fielder Briana Ramirez has had a terrific season in the leadoff spot for the Tigers. She currently ranks seventh in the CAA in batting average (.355) and places fifth in on-base percentage (.424), which earned her 2023 All-CAA Second Team honors. Ramirez also stands in fifth place with 14 stolen bases and her 37 runs scored trails only Lake in the conference leaderboards.

Another threat in Towson’s lineup is All-CAA First Team catcher Madyson Peters. She currently leads the conference with 19 doubles and is tied with Lake for third place on the RBI leaderboard with 36. Peters also owns a .323 batting average and .841 on-base plus slugging.

Towson second baseman Cori Jones has been a standout as well. She is batting .294, and her 32 runs scored is tied for seventh in the CAA.

Along with returning players, the Tigers had three players earn 2023 CAA All-Rookie Team nods in designated player Addie Ferguson, first baseman Kristin Toland and right fielder Cara Bohner.

In just 26 games played (22 starts) this season, Ferguson is hitting .302 and owns a .916 on-base plus slugging. Her stellar rookie campaign also earned her a spot on the All-CAA First Team.

Bohner has also had a nice season at the dish. She is hitting .299 with an .804 on-base plus slugging. Bohner has been productive as a power bat, collecting 25 RBIs and eight doubles on the year.

Though Toland’s stats may not be eye-popping, she has shown promise as a freshman. She has batted .244 with three doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs as a rotational player.

Like Stony Brook, the Tigers have been decent in the circle but not spectacular. Their team ERA is the fifth-best in the CAA at 3.51 and their batting average against is the fourth-best (.277). They have also allowed the fourth-most home runs (30) and walks (133) in the conference.

Towson’s biggest threat in the circle is starting pitcher Maddie Gardner. Through 28 appearances (24 starts) this season, she owns the sixth best ERA in the conference (2.66) and is second in strikeouts (131). Gardner ranks eighth in batting average against (.240), but she has struggled with keeping the ball in the yard. She has allowed 16 home runs this year, which is the second-worst total in the CAA.

If the Seawolves can fight off elimination on Thursday against one of these three teams, they would play another elimination game on Friday at 2:30 p.m. That opponent would be the higher seed of the two losers from the two aforementioned games that take place before Stony Brook’s matchup.

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco
Anthony DiCocco, Assistant Sports Editor
Anthony DiCocco is an Assistant Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports derives from years of playing dek hockey and watching his favorite teams, the New York Islanders, New York Mets and New York Jets. He is the beat reporter for Stony Brook’s hockey and softball teams. He has also covered football, baseball, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper the Devil’s Tale at Plainedge High School. He is a local product from North Massapequa, N.Y.
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