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Stony Brook baseball drops three of four at Purdue to open season

Left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring throws from the outfield in practice on Jan. 24. Brown-Eiring went 7-for-16 with nine runs batted in the Stony Brook baseball team’s season-opening series. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

In a high-scoring series to open the 2024 season, the Stony Brook baseball team did not get off to a great start.

At Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, the Seawolves (1-3) took on the Purdue Boilermakers (3-1) in a four-game series this past weekend to kick off their new year. Stony Brook was shut out 6-0 on Friday before splitting a doubleheader on Saturday with a 10-8 win and a 12-8 loss. In the getaway game on Sunday, a late-inning surge by Purdue allowed it to defeat the Seawolves 13-6 and take the series.

Game one was all Boilermakers from the jump. After starting pitcher Eddie Smink walked a pair of batters in the bottom of the first inning, Purdue designated hitter Logan Sutter singled to center field to drive in the game’s first run.

The Boilermakers tacked on a pair in the bottom of the second with back-to-back sacrifice flies to right field from shortstop Thomas Green and center fielder Couper Cornblum. After falling behind 3-0, Smink settled down and worked around command issues to hold them scoreless over the rest of his outing.

Smink was pulled after throwing 91 pitches through five innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out three and walking four. He also tossed two wild pitches in his rocky first start.

After Smink was pulled, relief pitcher Erik Paulsen made his NCAA debut. The left-handed two-way tossed a scoreless sixth inning before being greeted rudely in the seventh. After allowing a leadoff single to Purdue second baseman Ty Gill, catcher Connor Caskenette lifted an opposite-field, two-run home run over the right-center field wall to make it 5-0.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Paulsen issued a one-out single to third baseman Jo Stevens before getting pulled in favor of relief pitcher Matt Jackson. After a wild pitch by Jackson and an error by shortstop Matt Miceli put runners on the corners, the Boilermakers pulled off a double steal with Stevens scoring after catcher Chris Leone threw down to second base.

All the while, Purdue’s pitching staff had a great start to its year. Starting pitcher Jordan Morales scattered just five hits across 5 ⅓ scoreless innings while striking out four and walking none. Relief pitcher Jackson Dannelley took the reins from there and completed an 11-out save, allowing just one hit in 3 ⅔ scoreless innings while fanning three and walking two.

Head coach Matt Senk was disappointed by his bats in the opening day loss.

“Overall, the game was frustrating because after a shaky start, we were in a position to push across some runs to at least get back to even,” Senk said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “But, we unfortunately didn’t execute offensively and Purdue did at a high level and that’s a credit to their club and the main difference in the result.”

The Seawolves did not wait until the 10th game this time around to grab their first win of the season. Instead, they swung the bat much better on Saturday morning and grabbed their first win of 2024 in style.

Right-handed pitcher Ty Saunders got the ball in game two for Stony Brook and made the first start of his five-year NCAA career. He did well with his opportunity, going 5 ⅔ innings while allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits, striking out five hitters and walking only one in the process.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Seawolves grabbed a 3-2 lead with a run batted in (RBI) single by left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by right fielder Chris Carson. However, the Boilermakers got it right back in the bottom half of the frame when Green pulled a two-out, two-run double down the left-field line off Saunders to make it 4-3. Saunders was then pulled in favor of relief pitcher Ty Stout, who got Gill to line out to right and end it.

Then came the top of the seventh inning, where Stony Brook ran away with it. With runners on first and second base and only one out, center fielder Cam Santerre grounded one through the left side to score catcher Chris Leone and tie the game at four apiece. After an intentional pass to third baseman Evan Goforth loaded the bases, Brown-Eiring and first baseman Brett Paulsen each worked walks off relief pitcher Aaron Suval to drive in a pair of runs.

After Carson popped out with the bags juiced, Miceli emptied them with a three-run triple to put the Seawolves up 9-4. However, Purdue answered with three in the bottom of the seventh inning, starting with a two-out, two-run double to left field by Sutter off Stout. Senk pulled Stout in favor of relief pitcher J.T. Raab, who surrendered a pinch-hit, ground-rule double to right fielder Keenan Taylor. However, Raab got Green to pop out to first base, keeping the 9-7 lead intact.

After both pitchers exchanged scoreless frames in the eighth inning, Miceli put the game away with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. The Boilermakers made some noise in their final chance, as Miceli committed another error and Taylor drove in the unearned run. On the scoring play, Carson made a perfect throw to second base and got the force to trade a run for an out.

Miceli committed a third error in two days to keep the door open, but Raab induced a popout on Gill to lock down the seven-out save and the victory for Stony Brook.

Senk was thrilled with his team’s bounce back after being dominated the night before.

“In game one, Ty Saunders did a great job giving us the start we needed coming off the previous night’s loss and the offense had a terrific day,” Senk said.

Later on Saturday evening, the Seawolves’ bats stayed hot to open game three of the series before cooling off until the middle of the game. With a man on and one run already across in the top of the first inning, Goforth sent a ball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer to give Stony Brook a 3-0 lead. In the bottom half, the Boilermakers got within a run with a two-RBI double to center field by first baseman Luke Gaffney off starting pitcher Colton Book.

Purdue took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Goforth and Brown-Eiring answered right back in the top of the fifth with back-to-back RBI singles to go up 5-4.

However, the Seawolves lead was short lived. Relief pitcher Colin Rhein replaced Book at the start of the bottom of the fifth inning to make his NCAA debut after not appearing through his first two years, but it did not go as planned. Rhein surrendered consecutive doubles to Caskenette and Gaffney before Sutter launched a two-run home run over the right-center field wall, giving Purdue a 7-5 lead.

The Boilermakers’ offensive explosion continued into the sixth inning. Rhein allowed a single to Green and a walk to Cornblum around a balk, leading to Senk yanking him in favor of relief pitcher Ty Panariello. Panariello loaded the bases by plunking Stevens and followed it up by tossing one to the backstop, allowing Green to score from third.

Panariello reloaded the bases by walking Caskenette before Gaffney slugged his second two-run double of the game, scoring Cornblum and Stevens. Sutter followed by pulling a double to left field, bringing home Caskenette and Gaffney. The eight-run stretch between the fifth and sixth innings put Purdue up 12-5, which was out of Stony Brook’s reach.

In the top of the seventh, the Seawolves loaded the bases and scratched across three runs courtesy of a two-run double by Brown-Eiring and an RBI groundout by Brett Paulsen. After that, the Boilermakers weathered the storm through relief pitcher Cal Lambert, who sat down six of the next eight hitters and completed a nine-out save to split the doubleheader.

Sunday’s series finale was more of the same for Stony Brook, as a burst of offense in the first two innings flamed out and allowed Purdue to strike in the latter portion of the game.

With the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the first inning, Brown-Eiring bashed a bases-clearing double to left field. After Brown-Eiring stole third base, Brett Paulsen poked a ball to second base to drive him in. In the second inning, the Seawolves tacked on another when second baseman Evan Fox lined out to center field, allowing catcher Ryan Micheli to tag up and score to make it 5-0.

In his NCAA debut, Stony Brook starting pitcher Nick Rizzo worked himself out of a second-inning rut with a strikeout after the Boilermakers made noise and put up two runs.

A scoreless bottom of the third inning was followed by a disastrous fourth, as Purdue posted a three-spot to knot things up. Stevens sparked the rally with an RBI double before right fielder Keenan Spence knocked a two-run homer over the left-field wall to tie the game at 5-5.

Just like in game three, the Seawolves failed to fight back after the Boilermakers heated up. After Rizzo tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth inning, he loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Senk pulled Rizzo in favor of Jackson, who melted down.

Jackson walked Cornblum on just five pitches to give Purdue the lead before Caskenette smacked a two-strike grand slam over the right-field wall to put his team up 10-5. In the next half-inning, Goforth got one run back with an RBI single, but the Boilermakers put it away in the home side.

Relief pitcher Jerek Hobb came in to start the bottom of the seventh inning and walked a pair around a wild pitch, setting up runners at the corners. Hobb failed to strand the runners, as he unleashed a wild pitch to let Sutter trot home from third base. Another walk and a hit batsman over the following three batters set up Cornblum, who mashed a ground-rule double to center field and drove in a pair of runs.

Stony Brook left a pair on base in the top of the eighth inning, so Senk substituted in some backups for the ninth. Purdue relief pitcher Griffin Lohman worked around a walk to slam the door on the Seawolves and officially hand them the opening-series loss.

Despite the 1-3 record, Stony Brook had a handful of positive individual performances. Brown-Eiring had a great weekend, hitting safely in all four games. Overall, he went 7-for-16 at the plate with two doubles, two walks, nine RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases.

Three new Seawolves had good showings. Santerre had a huge first week against NCAA Division I competition, going 5-for-9 with a triple, an RBI, a walk, four hit-by-pitches and seven runs scored. Goforth finished his first series with a new team 5-for-15 with a double, a homer, four RBIs, three runs, a walk and two hit-by-pitches. Designated hitter Nick Solorzano played in three of the four games and went 3-for-8 in his introduction to Division I baseball.

On the mound, relief pitcher Quinlan Montgomery stood out, as he tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday, allowing just one hit while striking out the side.

Stony Brook will be back at it again next weekend to partake in another four-game trip down south. This time, the Seawolves will go to a familiar site: Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. They will alternate back and forth between both the Northwestern State Demons and the No. 4/2 Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers.

The weekend will open with a doubleheader on Friday morning with Stony Brook taking on Northwestern State at 10 a.m. before facing LSU later at 3 p.m. The Demons are 0-3 after being swept by Southern Illinois, while the Tigers are 3-0 and have another game versus Central Arkansas on Monday.

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