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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Missed opportunities in 2023 leave question marks surrounding Stony Brook baseball’s future

Right fielder Matty Wright swings at a pitch against Iona while the rest of his team watches on Tuesday, April 25. The Stony Brook baseball team had a tough first year in the CAA, and it may get harder after this offseason. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Of all the teams at Stony Brook University that had to transition from the America East Conference (AE) to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the baseball team arguably had the toughest road.

All season long, the CAA was one of the 10 best conferences in the nation by Rankings Power Index (RPI) standards. The conference hovered around the seventh spot out of 31 conferences for most of the year and ultimately finished there, too. After facing much lesser competition in the AE for 21 seasons, the Seawolves struggled with their tough 2023 schedule and wound up finishing under .500, ultimately missing the playoffs.

As one of the better programs in the Northeast, Stony Brook had higher expectations from everyone coming into the season. The team was picked to finish in sixth place in the conference’s preseason poll, which would have given them the final spot in the 2023 CAA baseball tournament. The Seawolves were also coming off three consecutive regular season championships in the AE, giving the rest of the CAA a reason to watch out for them.

Ultimately, Stony Brook proved to not be completely ready for the challenge of a new conference this year. The Seawolves fought hard, but settled for a lot of moral victories instead. The team finished 23-29 overall and 14-16 in conference play, which landed it in seventh place. It was only the sixth losing season and eighth non-winning season since head coach Matt Senk took over back in the Division III days of 1991. At the Division I level, it was only the fourth time in program history that Stony Brook had finished with a non-winning record in conference play, and only the second losing record in that same category.

The Seawolves started the year 0-9 overall after being swept in three-straight series on the road by Cal State University, Northridge (CSUN), Troy and University of North Carolina (UNC). They had not started a season that poorly since 2013, which was the year after they made a run to the 2012 College World Series, leading to a roster that was depleted by the draft.

Stony Brook returned to New York for the first time this year with that nine-game losing streak and wound up playing its best baseball afterwards. The team won midweek games on back-to-back days against Fordham and Long Island University (LIU) before sweeping a three-game series from Lafayette College.

After finishing the nonconference portion of its schedule on a five-game winning streak, Stony Brook never played to that level again. The Seawolves lost two out of three games in each of their first five series of the conference season, falling to 13-20 overall and 5-10 in CAA play. However, they appeared to right the ship in the sixth series of the season at Elon. Stony Brook took two out of three games from the Phoenix to capture its first-ever CAA series victory, then returned home the next week and swept North Carolina A&T.

Those series victories moved the Seawolves into a tie with Delaware for the final playoff spot, and they took on the Blue Hens the following week with a chance to overlap them. They gave themselves countless great opportunities throughout all three games of that series, but blew six total leads and got swept.

After that brutal weekend, Stony Brook needed a lot of help to make the playoffs. The Seawolves started their last-ditch effort by sweeping Monmouth in their final home series of the year, and won the first game of the final series at Towson. However, they lost the final two games of the regular season to the Tigers, officially eliminating them from the playoffs. The Seawolves wound up getting the outside help they needed over the last two weeks, but by losing so many tiebreakers earlier in the year, the first loss to Towson ended their season.

One common theme of Stony Brook’s season was its inability to get the big play when it needed to, which historically has not been the team’s issue. Whether it was holding a lead or getting the game-winning hit, the Seawolves never showed up in the clutch. After compiling five walk-off wins and nine last at-bat victories in 2022, the offense showed almost no late-game resiliency. The team won only one game in walk-off fashion and earned just two total last at-bat victories this year.

The inability to come up with the clutch hit led to Stony Brook finishing just 2-4 in one-run games. In games decided by two runs or less, the Seawolves were just 5-11. In extra inning games, they were just 1-5. Their pitching lacked the same clutch gene, as Stony Brook lost 13 games in which it led in at one point. In eight of those games, the bullpen coughed up the lead. Seven of those losses came against conference opponents. Had the pitching staff held just half of those leads, the team could have won 30 games and clinched the fourth seed in the tournament.

The pitching staff was Stony Brook’s weakest link. The team pitched to a 6.70 ERA, which was the third-worst figure in the CAA. The arms were awfully hittable, too, as they combined to post a 1.69 WHIP and a .286 batting average against.

Starting pitcher Nick DeGennaro was once the staff’s ace, but wound up suffering setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. To limit the stress on his arm, Senk moved DeGennaro to the bullpen, where he became the team’s top option by season’s end. However, his blowup outings at Troy, Charleston and Delaware inflated his ERA to 6.30, his WHIP to 1.73 and his batting average against to .311. He wound up pitching only 30 innings for the Seawolves.

Stony Brook also missed left-handed pitcher Colton Book, who was a 2022 AE All-Rookie Team selection. He redshirted due to injuries, as he suffered from both a pulled hamstring and mononucleosis.

For the second year in a row, starting pitcher Ben Fero became the team’s ace. He went at least six innings in nine of his 13 starts and pitched to a 5.35 ERA in 79 innings. He posted a 1.44 WHIP and opponents hit .271 against him. However, these numbers were inflated by the four starts where he did not get through the sixth inning. Outside of those starts, Fero pitched to a 3.65 ERA.

Starting pitcher Josh O’Neill was arguably the team’s best starter, as he pitched to a 5.30 ERA, a team-leading 1.26 WHIP and a .232 opponent’s batting average. After starting the year in the bullpen, O’Neill was moved into the starting rotation and flourished, pitching to a 3.99 ERA over 47 ⅓ innings in just seven starts.

Freshman starting pitcher Eddie Smink had a promising freshman year after starting poorly. After allowing 10 earned runs in his first two outings, Smink settled down and pitched to a 4.13 ERA over his final 12 appearances. He made 14 appearances and started in nine games for Stony Brook, leading the team with a 5.25 ERA in 61 ⅔ innings.

The Seawolves’ pitching staff had many other potential veteran X-factors coming into this season, but they all pitched to ERAs over 6.00 and dealt with either control issues or injuries. Those guys include starting pitcher Jared Bellissimo and relief pitchers Kyle Johnson, Brendan Pattermann, Brandon Lashley and Quinlan Montgomery. Relief pitchers J.T. Raab, Jerek Hobb and Sadier Vicioso all went through growing pains in their first season in the NCAA as well, but showed promise at times.

Offensively, Stony Brook was strong statistically. Third baseman Evan Giordano rounded up his Seawolves’ career with a bang, posting career-highs across the board. Amongst his new career-bests include hits (75), batting average (.346), doubles (19), triples (four), RBIs (54) and runs (52). He also smacked 11 home runs, giving him the third-most by a Stony Brook hitter (33) in the program’s Division I history. He won two CAA Player of the Week Awards in 2023 and was named to the 2023 All-CAA First Team for his prowess with the bat.

Amongst CAA hitters, Giordano ranked eighth in slugging percentage (.622), 10th in on-base plus slugging (1.028), tied for ninth in runs, tied for fifth in RBIs, eighth in hits and tied for third in doubles. He narrowly missed the top 10 in batting average by .0002 points.

Second baseman/center fielder Evan Fox also made the All-CAA First Team next to Giordano. He slashed .333/.429/.534 with 13 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 37 RBIs. He led the conference in stolen bases with 39 and was only caught stealing six times. His 58 runs scored led the team and ranked fourth in the CAA. Fox also led the team with 26 walks.

His 39 steals broke the program record for most in a single season. His 27th steal of the season, which came against Iona on April 25, was the 80th of his Stony Brook career. That steal broke Travis Jankowski’s all-time program record for career stolen bases.

Left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring and first baseman Brett Paulsen also got some recognition from the league for their performances, as they were both given 2023 All-CAA Honorable Mentions. Brown-Eiring slashed .297/.364/.487 with 10 doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBIs. Paulsen batted .323 with 12 doubles, a triple, two homers and 38 RBIs. In conference play, Paulsen batted .356 and slugged .508.

Right fielder Derek Yalon had a career year for the Seawolves, batting .292 and .318 against CAA opponents. He collected 10 doubles, four triples, two homers, 30 RBIs and 33 runs. He also swiped 10 bags in 14 tries. His 18 walks and 5 hit-by-pitches gave him a .376 on-base percentage.

Designated hitter Shane Paradine was up and down for Stony Brook, as he was affected by a slap tear which prevented him from catching. He still batted .290 with a .347 on-base percentage and collected 13 doubles, a triple and five home runs. His 41 RBIs were the second-most on the ballclub.

Catcher Ryan Micheli did the bulk of the catching for Stony Brook and was respectable. He batted .261 with a .366 on-base percentage for the Seawolves.

The worst part of Stony Brook missing the playoffs is that its road to an NCAA regional appearance is about to get even longer. The team is set to lose many of its top names. On offense, Giordano is out of eligibility, while Paradine is in the transfer portal. The team has not publicly confirmed whether or not Yalon will return for his fifth year of eligibility. From the pitching staff, DeGennaro, Fero, Bellissimo, Johnson and Lashley are all graduating. Meanwhile, O’Neill is in the transfer portal and looking to play elsewhere for his fifth year.

Along with those meaningful departures, Campbell University is officially joining the CAA next year and boasts one of the best baseball programs in the country. The Fighting Camels have been ranked in the top 25 by every major poll all year round and have gone to four of the last five NCAA tournaments.

After being the odd man out in the playoffs with major roster turnover incoming, and a new opponent joining to make matters worse, the Stony Brook baseball team will have its work cut out for it next year.

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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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