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Stony Brook baseball takes two from Seton Hall behind dominant pitching

Center fielder Evan Fox takes a big swing against Siena on Friday, March 8. Fox hit a game-winning home run and had a game-tying hit this past weekend at Seton Hall. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

Despite only scoring seven runs over three games, the Stony Brook baseball team still managed to win its final nonconference series of the year.

The Seawolves (9-9) spent the weekend in New Jersey taking on the Seton Hall Pirates (11-8) for a three-game series. Stony Brook’s pitching carried it to a 1-0 win on Friday and a 3-2 victory on Saturday, but it was walked off on and lost 4-3 on Sunday.

In game one, starting pitcher Eddie Smink outmatched Seton Hall starting pitcher Daniel Frontera went head-to-head in a pitchers’ duel.

Smink and Frontera exchanged zeros throughout the first six innings. However, Smink ran into some trouble in the bottom of the sixth after surrendering back-to-back singles to the Pirates to start it off. Behind his powerful right arm, Smink fanned Seton Hall third baseman Pat D’Amico on three pitches before getting shortstop Jonathan Luders to foul out to the catcher. After that, Smink whiffed left fielder Aiden Robbins to end it.

In the top of the seventh inning, center fielder Evan Fox pulled Frontera’s fastball way over the left-field fence to break the stalemate and give the Seawolves the lead. In the home half, relief pitcher Erik Paulsen took over for Smink and issued a two-out double to right fielder Danny Melnick to put runners on second and third base for the Pirates with two outs. Paulsen was not fazed, as he induced a fly ball out to center field on the very next pitch he threw to get out of it.

Paulsen worked around a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth inning before hurling a perfect ninth to lock down the three-inning save and complete the combined shutout.

In the middle game of the series, starting pitcher Nick Rizzo opposed Seton Hall starting pitcher Ryan Reich and did his job well, but things started on the wrong note. In the bottom of the first inning, Rizzo allowed three consecutive hits — the final two of which were a run-scoring triple by Robbins and an infield single by Melnick. Rizzo settled down after that and was pulled after surrendering just two runs on four hits and two walks through five innings.

Stony Brook’s bats struggled to mount any sort of threat against Reich, but in the top of the sixth inning, the Pirates went to the bullpen and called upon relief pitcher Jackson Balzan. The Seawolves loaded the bases against Balzan and with two outs, Fox yanked a single through the left side and drove in a pair to tie the game.

Relief pitcher Ty Saunders kept the game tied at two apiece by tossing four scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing just two hits while striking out four hitters. In the top of the ninth, Paulsen drew a walk and was pinch run for by center fielder Cam Santerre, who advanced another two bases on a pair of groundouts.

Now with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, catcher Nick Solorzano ripped one past the dive of second baseman Zack Sylvester and into right field to break the tie for good.

The getaway game started perfectly for Stony Brook. Fox led off by bouncing one over to D’Amico, whose throw went awry. After Fox stole second base and Paulsen singled him over to third, left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring lifted a sacrifice fly to center to give the Seawolves the lead.

Second baseman Johnny Pilla followed with a single that advanced Paulsen to third. Solorzano followed by flying one out to right field that allowed Paulsen to tag up and score.

Now staked to a 2-0 lead, starting pitcher J.T. Raab surrendered a leadoff triple to Sylvester in the bottom of the second inning before right fielder Cole Zak fielder drove him in with a groundout to collect the run batted in (RBI).

Over the next three and a half innings, both Raab and Seton Hall starting pitcher Cole Hansen exchanged scoreless frames. In the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates finally drew even when first baseman Andrew Bianco singled home Melnick from second base to tie the game.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, relief pitcher Jerek Hobb replaced Raab and struggled mightily. He surrendered three hits to the four batters he faced, including an RBI single to Seton Hall center fielder Kyle Lyons. Now trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Paulsen tied the game with a run-scoring double down the right-field line.

Relief pitcher Colin Rhein — who replaced Hobb and ended the bottom of the seventh inning — stayed on and pitched a perfect eighth. After retiring his first five hitters, Rhein started the bottom of the ninth, but he walked Luders after getting ahead of him 0-2 to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt moved Luders into scoring position, and a single up the middle by Lyons drove him in to walk it off.

Erik Paulsen had a big weekend, as he hit safely in all three games and went 4-for-11 at the plate with a double, an RBI, a run scored and two walks. In his relief outing in game one, he allowed just three hits and struck out three batters in as many innings.

First baseman Brett Paulsen also had a big weekend, recording at least one hit in all three contests while going 5-for-10 overall, including 3-for-3 in game two. Paulsen also walked once, scored a run and stole a base. Shortstop Matt Miceli went 3-for-9 with a walk and a stolen base.

Head coach Matt Senk did not speak to the media after any of the games this series.

The Seawolves will look to rise back above .500 when they return to Joe Nathan Field to host the Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) Blue Devils on Tuesday. The Blue Devils are 4-6 and 4-2 in the Northeastern Conference after taking two out of three games from Long Island University over the weekend. First pitch between Stony Brook and CCSU is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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