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Stony Brook softball continues hunt for CAA crown against top-seeded Delaware

Several Stony Brook softball players and head coach Megan Bryant huddle between innings in a game against Fordham on Wednesday, April 26. The Seawolves will play top-seeded Delaware in the CAA tournament on Friday afternoon. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

After coming back to pull off another upset win in the 2023 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) softball tournament, the seventh-seeded Stony Brook softball team will look to continue its run over the top dog.

The Seawolves (28-26, 10-13 CAA) overcame a five-run deficit on Thursday night to knock off the second-seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks with an 11-9 victory. That win advanced them to the final four of the CAA tournament, where they will now face the top-seeded Delaware Blue Hens at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Blue Hens lost to the fifth-seeded Towson Tigers on Thursday 4-2 in an extra-inning affair, making this an elimination for both them and Stony Brook. When the two teams met during the regular season, Delaware swept the Seawolves in a three-game series.

Delaware’s pitching staff played a big part in the team’s regular-season championship. The Blue Hens have pitched to a 2.68 ERA as a team this year, which now ranks them first in the CAA.

Delaware is led by starting pitcher Emily Winburn, who was named the 2023 CAA Pitcher of the Year. She has pitched in 30 games this year and started 23 of them, posting a 17-9 win-loss record. She has pitched a 2.23 ERA in 150 ⅔ innings this year and has held opponents to a .219 batting average. In the CAA leaderboards, Winburn is fourth in ERA and fifth in both innings and batting average against. Her 110 strikeouts are also the fourth-most in the conference. Not surprisingly, she was also selected to the 2023 All-CAA First Team for her performance in the pitcher’s circle.

Right after Winburn is Delaware starting pitcher Taylor Wroten, who has been better than her in some aspects. Wroten’s 1.90 ERA now leads the CAA after UNCW starting pitcher Janel Gamache had her numbers inflated by Stony Brook. Her .188 batting average against leads the CAA by a wide margin. Wroten has been used as both a starter and a reliever, as she has pitched in 29 games and started 15 of them. Her dominance this year earned her a selection to the 2023 All-CAA Second Team.

However, Wroten has struggled with her command at times. Her 46 walks issued ties her for tenth-most in the CAA.

Delaware relief pitcher Kendall Shank has also been effective, as she has pitched to a 2.75 ERA in nine appearances and 20 ⅓ innings out of the bullpen. Despite this, Shank has not pitched since April 21 against Towson.

Delaware has a strong offense as well. The Blue Hens are currently batting .283, which is good for third-best in the CAA. They are averaging 4.13 runs per game, which is the fifth-best figure in the conference.

Delaware’s offense is led by third baseman Hanna Garber, who is currently fourth in the CAA in batting average (.366) and third in doubles (13). Her .418 on-base percentage and .534 slugging percentage each rank ninth in the conference. Garber leads Delaware with 32 runs scored, placing her in the top ten in the conference. She has also driven in 20 runs, which is tied for third-most on the team. While on the base paths, she stole nine bases in 10 attempts. She was selected to the All-CAA First Team for her efforts.

Delaware center fielder Julz Garber — Hanna’s younger sister — has also been a key contributor on offense for the Blue Hens. Garber leads the team in batting average at .368, which is the third-best figure in the conference. The younger Garber is a slap hitter and is not a power threat, as she only had two extra-base hits (one double, one triple) this year. Her 12 walks have helped her amass a .411 on-base percentage. She also leads the team with 17 stolen bases in 22 attempts. Garber made the All-CAA Second Team.

Delaware first baseman Kiara Mills is also very active on both sides of the ball. She is batting .307 this year with 12 doubles, a triple and three home runs. Her 26 RBIs ties her with Delaware second baseman Brittney Mendoza for the team lead. She has displayed good on-base skills this year, drawing 14 walks while also wearing nine hit-by-pitches. Those extra trips on base have netted her a .405 on-base percentage. Her 16 extra-base hits have yielded a .471 slugging percentage, giving her an .876 on-base plus slugging. She has also flashed a lot of leather at first base this year, committing just two errors in 435 chances, good for a .995 fielding percentage. On top of it all, Mills stole 11 bases in 12 attempts this year.

Mills’ performance earned her a spot on the All-CAA Second Team, and her defense won her the 2023 CAA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Delaware left fielder Katie Scheivert has had a big year, too. Scheivert is batting .317 with a .372 on-base percentage. Her 20 RBIs ties her with Hanna Garber for third-most on the team, and she is 14-for-16 in stolen base attempts. Scheivert was selected to the 2023 CAA All-Rookie Team.

Delaware designated player Grace Hrustich rounds out a lethal Blue Hens lineup. She has only played 16 games this season, but is batting .424 with a .486 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage.

Stony Brook is a much better team this time around. The last time these two teams met, the Seawolves had several players looking to hit their stride. Now a month later, they are aptly equipped to handle Delaware.

Stony Brook’s deadly offense matches up well with Delaware’s elite pitching. The Seawolves are second in the CAA in team batting average (.286) and are just behind Towson for the conference lead. They are averaging 4.42 runs per game, which is second only to Towson, who are averaging 4.75.

They are led by All-CAA First Team left fielder Alyssa Costello, who is one of the hottest players in the nation right now. After winning the 2022 America East Conference (AE) batting title, Costello is batting .397 this year to lead the CAA. Her 13 doubles ties her with Hanna Garber for the third-most in the CAA, and her eight home runs ties her for sixth in the conference. She leads the team with 35 RBIs, which is the fifth-most in the CAA. She also leads Stony Brook with 36 runs scored, placing her in the top 10 in the conference.

Against UNCW, Costello played the hero role for the Seawolves. She went 4-for-4 and collected the game-winning hit in the top of the seventh inning off of UNCW starting pitcher Kara Hammock.

Catcher Corinne Badger is very dangerous as well. Badger is batting .265 this year, and her 14 home runs still lead the CAA. Her 33 RBIs are the sixth-most in the conference this year. She also leads Stony Brook with 18 walks. Her 15 hit-by-pitches leads the CAA by a significant margin, allowing her to post a .395 on-base percentage. Badger has also scored 32 runs, tying her with the elder Garber in the CAA leaderboard rankings.

Center fielder Alicia Orosco is one of the best leadoff hitters in the conference. Orosco is batting .342 this year with a .388 on-base percentage and has scored 32 runs. She leads the team with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts. She is second on the team with 10 doubles, and her two triples co-leads the team with Costello.

Right fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski is batting .275 this year and has slugged eight doubles and seven homers. Her 25 RBIs are the fourth-most on the team. Kupinski is slugging .511 this year, which is the third-best mark on the team.

First baseman Ashley Jacobson has cooled down recently, but she is still having a big year. She is batting .288 with four doubles, a triple and eight home runs. Her power has netted her a .475 slugging percentage and 29 RBIs, which is the third-most by a Seawolf.

Stony Brook has other reliable platoon bats as well. Corner outfielder Shauna Nuss has played both left and right field this year, and is also commonly used to pinch run. The slap hitter is currently batting .288 with a .369 on-base percentage and is 5-for-5 as a base stealer. She has scored 22 runs this year, placing her fourth on the Seawolves’ roster.

Left fielder Julianna Sanzone is typically used as a designated player and provides Stony Brook with another quality bat. She is only 1-for-11 in the tournament, but she is batting .268 this year with a .345 on-base percentage.

Shortstop Naiah Ackerman is batting just .220 as a freshman this season, but she has shown flashes. She has collected 17 RBIs this year and was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team.

Backup catcher Emily Reinstein is yet to appear in the CAA tournament, but batted .294 with a .510 slugging percentage in 51 at-bats during the regular season. Shortstop Hailey Guerrero has not recorded an at-bat in the postseason either, but slashed .348/.423/.565 in 23 at-bats in the regular season.

In the circle, Stony Brook will rely on red-shot starting pitcher Mia Haynes. She leads the CAA with 174 ⅔ innings pitched and has posted a 3.25 ERA this year. Haynes boasts an 18-8 record in her first year with the Seawolves. She will pitch the game against Delaware. If she delivers Stony Brook to victory, starting pitcher Ashton Melaas would get the ball in the next game.

Melaas has pitched to a 3.67 ERA in 148 ⅔ innings. Her 1.30 WHIP and .269 batting average both lead Stony Brook’s pitching staff.

The winner of this game will move on to play the loser of the game between the third-seeded Hofstra Pride and the Towson Tigers. That game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Hofstra are the tournament’s hosts, as Bill Edwards Stadium is its home yard. Stony Brook is 0-4 against the Pride this year and just lost 5-2 to them on Wednesday. The Seawolves took two out of three games from Towson two weeks ago.

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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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