The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

42° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

New-look Stony Brook baseball has questions to answer in 2024

The Stony Brook baseball team warms up at the start of practice on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The Seawolves are looking to bounce back in the 2024 season. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After only its fifth losing season at the NCAA Division I level, the Stony Brook baseball team is seeking redemption in its second year in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

The Seawolves’ 2023 season was not nearly as successful, romantic or rewarding as many others have been. They lacked the clutch gene on offense, had inconsistencies on defense, committed mindless errors on the basepaths and struggled to hold leads on the mound. Their sheer amount of talent was still able to keep them in the CAA postseason hunt until the end, but those efforts ultimately fell short. The 23-29 overall and 14-16 conference records were far cries from where they usually land, but it is understandable when looking at the landscape of the conference.

The CAA was the seventh-best conference in the nation last year by rating percentage index. This year, it added Campbell University: a powerhouse in the Big South Conference and a perpetual top-25 team. Along with Campbell, the conference boasts No. 23 Northeastern, Charleston, Elon, William & Mary and the University of North Carolina Wilmington — the defending CAA champions.

Outside of those six teams, Delaware is coming off a playoff berth, and Hofstra is just a year removed from a tournament championship and is returning several good hitters. There is only room for six playoff teams in the CAA. It does not help that third baseman Evan Giordano, catcher Shane Paradine, right fielder Derek Yalon and right-handed pitchers Ben Fero, Nick DeGennaro and Josh O’Neill are all gone.

Despite all of the odds being stacked against him and his program, head coach Matt Senk is not panicking.

“I think there’s always that concern whenever you lose guys who have been integral parts of the program,” Senk said in an interview with The Statesman. “But I think that between incoming freshmen, transfer guys that have been successful in other places and guys that were in the program, I think we’ll be fine.”

Of the 39 players on the Seawolves’ roster, 17 of them are new, 10 of which are freshmen. With all of the youth and newer recruits looking to find their way, Stony Brook’s returning core will be tasked with leading the way and upholding the program’s reputation.

With how green the Seawolves’ pitching staff is, they will have to score a lot of runs and play great defense to compete. As always, that will start with their leadoff hitter: second baseman Evan Fox.

Fox is a career .311/.419/.495 hitter and the program’s all-time record-holder for stolen bases in a single season (39) and a career (91). He is coming off a 2023 All-CAA First Team selection after a season that saw him bat .333/.429/.534 with 13 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, 37 runs batted in (RBI) and 58 runs scored.

On defense, his strong hands, great athleticism and accurate arm make him one of the more reliable defensive second basemen in the CAA. Senk plans to play him there exclusively this year after moving him between second and center field.

Now in his fourth year, he will be tasked with doing the same thing as the previous two: get on base and run.

“It’s fair to say he’s the catalyst,” Senk said. “He has put up great numbers. He leads by example, he’s a great athlete, he’s versatile, he steals bases. If we’re going to win a lot of games on a consistent basis, Evan’s going to be a big part of that.”

Protecting Fox in the lineup is star left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring, who was a 2023 All-CAA Honorable Mention and a 2022 All-America East Conference (AE) First Team member. Brown-Eiring is another senior on his farewell tour and is entering his third season as a full-time starter. Over the past two years, he has slashed .296/.366/.519 and has shown line-to-line power along with consistent all-field hitting ability.

Brown-Eiring is the best power bat on the team by a long shot and has raked 26 doubles and 19 home runs over the last two seasons. Though his strikeout rate is rather average, he has an effective two-strike approach that allows him to stay alive and hit the ball the other way.

In left field, Brown-Eiring’s athleticism allows him to make tough catches, and his strong arm makes him difficult to run on for opposing offenses.

Now that Brown-Eiring has tasted a year’s worth of CAA pitching, he feels ready to end his collegiate career with a bang.

“I’m going to be more on attack,” Brown-Eiring said. “Now I know what’s coming, they know about me and [Evan] Foxy, they know about the rest of us. It’s more of a controlled aggression now instead of a relaxed aggression, and now I know where to tunnel it and get after it.”

The longest-tenured Stony Brook player is first baseman Brett Paulsen, who is also coming off an Honorable Mention season. He is back for a fifth season and is a very skilled opposite-field hitter. On defense, he is one of the Seawolves’ most sure-handed fielders.

Paulsen is a career .288 hitter who has seen his batting average, on-base percentage and doubles numbers increase every year. Last year, he batted .323. After hitting just .189 through the first three weeks, Paulsen batted .354 over the rest of the year.

Knowing that this may be his last time ever playing competitive baseball, Paulsen is looking to go out with a bang.

“I’m just working hard every day and trying to get better,” Paulsen said. “This is most likely my last time playing baseball, so I just want to finish on a high note. Obviously team success is the most important thing, but if I can finish strong, if I can keep getting better, then that’s the main goal.”

With the right side of the infield set, the left side is still being figured out. However, there seems to be a clear favorite to win both the shortstop and third base positions.

Shortstop Matt Miceli is back for his junior year and brings plus defense and speed with him. He showed a knack for making incredible plays at short last year while also flashing some notable improvements with the bat. After batting only .200 in 70 at-bats as a freshman in 2022, Miceli raised his average 25 points last year and stole 10 bases.

This year, with Miceli most likely to reprise his role at short, he has set the standard high for himself.

“I definitely want to hit over .300,” Miceli said. “Defensively, I want to make less than five errors.”

Third base will likely go to infielder Evan Goforth — a junior transfer who spent the previous two years at the University of Indiana. Defensive versatility is his strong suit, as he has impressed the coaches with soft hands and good range. He has started games at all four infield positions in his career, but with the right side locked down and shortstop potentially belonging to Miceli, third base makes the most sense for him.

He did not play very much last year, nor did he succeed when he saw the field, going just 3-for-20 at the plate. However, as a rookie in 2022, he batted .283 with a .404 on-base percentage in 57 plate appearances and was selected to the 2022 All-Big Ten Freshman Team.

Also in the running for third base are Joe DeLanzo and Cal Parillo. DeLanzo is a returning sophomore who bats left-handed but went just 1-for-12 last year. Parillo is a senior from Rhode Island College, an NCAA Division III school. In three years at Rhode Island College, Parillo batted .387 and totaled 141 RBIs in 116 games.

Behind the dish, Stony Brook is figuring it out. Catcher Chris Leone is the best defensive backstop on the team with a cannon of an arm. He also runs well, but his bat has not picked up through his first two years. Just based on his defensive ability and athleticism alone, Senk has tabbed him the likely frontrunner for the job. Behind him is senior Ryan Micheli, who is also in consideration for the designated hitter role.

Micheli boasts a career .367 on-base percentage in 233 plate appearances. Last year, he batted .261 with a .366 on-base percentage but did not hit for much power, slugging just four doubles and one home run. In 2022, he hit four more extra-base hits in 44 fewer at-bats.

As one of the team’s leaders, Micheli is optimistic about the offense despite the departures.

“I think we did a really good job rebuilding,” Micheli said. “I think we trust the process that Coach Senk, Coach [Jim] Martin, Coach [Jordan] Vujovich put us through. We’ve had some offensive success the past three years and I’m not really expecting much to change now.”

In the outfield, Brown-Eiring obviously owns the left side. Center field is currently a fight between a couple of players, but Rob Taylor is the frontrunner. He comes from the University of New Haven — an NCAA Division II school — where he played for four years and batted .342. Last year, Taylor hit .373 and stole 21 bases in 22 tries.

Another candidate for the job is outfielder Cam Santerre, who was Parillo’s teammate at Division III Rhode Island College. He is a career .367 hitter with a .508 on-base percentage against Division III pitching. Speed is a big part of his game, as he stole 103 bases in 111 tries at his last stop. Most of the work was done over the last three years, as Santerre only had one at-bat in his freshman year.

Returning junior Matt DeStefano and sophomore Matty Wright are both competing for playing time in center field and right field, but they both still need to find offensive consistency to earn it.

Senk tabbed freshman Chris Carson as the favorite to start in right field. Carson is a big, left-handed power bat who also boasts some athleticism, as he was a football player in high school, as well.

At designated hitter, there are several candidates. Other than Micheli, catcher Nick Solorzano is a top option there. Solorzano is a switch-hitting junior who transferred in this past offseason from Cosumnes River Community College in California. In two years at the junior college level, Solorzano posted a .336/.458/.504 slash line.

Aside from those two, sophomore outfielder Jason Campo is a candidate. Campo is a big right-handed bat who is really a first baseman, but the coaches are experimenting with him in right field to try and find him playing time. As a freshman, he batted .250 with five extra-base hits in 32 at-bats.

Freshman Erik Paulsen is another candidate for designated hitter, amongst other things. Paulsen is a two-way, as he plays first base and pitches. He is another big, left-handed power bat whom Senk is impressed by.

Paulsen is also expected to be a significant contributor on the mound this year, as he is a funky lefty with a lot of movement on all of his pitches.

The Seawolves are going to need arms like Paulsen to learn on the spot and do well if they want to win the CAA. They will be led by starting pitcher Eddie Smink, who is the definitive top option in the rotation as of now.

Smink is a flamethrower whose fastball sits in the lower-mid 90 miles per hour range. However, he is not afraid to pitch to contact and got a lot of ground balls last year. He averaged just 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings and led the team with a 5.25 earned run average (ERA).

As the ace of the staff, Smink just wants to deliver wins every Friday afternoon.

“Honestly, I just want to help the team win as much as possible,” Smink said. “My mentality is team first. I’m just going to go out there and pitch as best as I could to get our team in the best position possible to win games.”

Other than Smink, Stony Brook has some talented arms, but they need to prove themselves in order to be trusted moving forward.

One of those guys is left-handed pitcher Colton Book, who is in the mix right now to be one of the Seawolves’ top options. He was a 2022 AE All-Rookie Team member after holding a 3.35 ERA through his first 10 outings and displaying a very effective pickoff move. However, a bad final two starts inflated his ERA to 5.19.

Senk likes what he has seen from Book thus far.

“Colton is in the best shape of his life,” Senk said. “I’ve never seen him so focused and so totally locked in. He’s throwing the ball great. He’s definitely in the mix as a weekend starter.”

Another candidate for the rotation is right-handed pitcher J.T. Raab — a junior who missed his whole freshman year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He is a power pitcher with electric stuff who led the team with 12.0 strikeouts per nine last year.

Right-handed pitcher Colin Rhein is a junior who has never debuted due to injuries. He is a power arm with swing-and-miss stuff who Senk said may be either in the rotation or a top arm out of the bullpen. Senk is also high on freshman left-handed pitcher Nick Rizzo, who may get significant innings as well.

Right-handed pitcher Quinlan Montgomery is an experienced arm, now in his fourth year with the Seawolves. However, he has pitched to just a 6.30 ERA in his career. Senk said he had a solid fall, but he is still searching to find consistency.

Senk also named right-handed pitcher Ty Saunders — a graduate transfer who played four years at the University of Portland — as an X-factor in the team’s bullpen. Sophomore left-handed relief pitcher Jerek Hobb is recovering from an elbow surgery he underwent last spring, but he will return this year.

If the Seawolves’ youth can handle their own, then the team will have a fighting chance this year. However, only time will tell. Their chance to prove themselves starts in Sugar Land, Texas on Friday, Feb. 16 when they take on the Purdue Boilermakers.

George Caratzas also contributed reporting.

View Comments (1)
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
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.
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (1)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    Michael H LeimanFeb 11, 2024 at 4:27 pm

    Very nice, extremely comprehensive piece. A mere 54 years since I last played for the SB baseball team and things sure have changed! I’d have LOVED to play all those games!!

    Reply