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Stony Brook baseball to open CAA play at William & Mary

The Stony Brook baseball team’s infield gathers around head coach Matt Senk (center) during a pitching change against Central Connecticut State University on Tuesday, March 19. The Seawolves will open conference play up this Friday at William & Mary. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

After getting several test runs through Power Five and higher-level mid-major teams, the Stony Brook baseball team has finally reached the important part of its schedule.

The battle-tested Seawolves (9-10) will travel down to Virginia this weekend to take on the William & Mary Tribe (15-6) for a three-game series. Due to an impending rainstorm on Saturday, the two teams will play a doubleheader on Friday with start times scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m., respectively. The getaway game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Last year, the two teams met up at Joe Nathan Field and William & Mary took two out of three by winning the first pair of games in the series. The Tribe were playing well at that point last year, but it pales in comparison to what they are doing right now.

William & Mary’s identity is its pitching staff, as it ranks second in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) with a 4.08 team earned run average (ERA) and first with a .231 batting average against. Its pitchers have swing-and-miss stuff, evidenced by its conference-leading 225 strikeouts and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Head coach Mike McRae loves to manage his arms with analytics, so he often uses three pitchers per game to prevent them from making a second trip through the batting order, leading to all of them having low innings totals.

The Tribe’s first starter will be Nate Knowles, whose 2.35 ERA ranks sixth in the CAA. He has started in all seven of his appearances, but he has only pitched 23 innings. Despite the low inning total, Knowles’ 39 strikeouts are the second most in the conference. Opponents are hitting just .212 against him.

After Knowles comes Alex Markus, who has started in all six of his games and pitched to the tune of a 3.37 ERA and a 1.23 walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP). Markus’ 26 strikeouts over 18 ⅔ innings gives him a 12.5 per nine innings rate. He owns a .214 batting average against.

Rounding out their dominant rotation will be starting pitcher Zack Potts, who leads the CAA with a 1.27 ERA and boasts a 0.89 WHIP alongside a .195 opponent’s batting average. He averages 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings over 21 ⅓ frames and has also recorded a save.

However, with Knowles, Markus and Potts all going roughly three innings per game each, that means William & Mary’s bullpen will have to bear a prevalent load. That should be no problem for the Tribe, as relief pitchers Mark Hindy, Owen Pierce, Nick Lottchea, Brendan Kelly, Carter Lovasz, Luke Calveric and Travis Garnett combine to form one of the country’s best bullpens.

Hindy leads the group with 21 innings and is second in the CAA with a .169 batting average against. He owns a 3.00 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP, a 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and averages five strikeouts per walk. Pierce has been the team’s primary closing option, as he is tied for second in the conference with three saves. Pierce has pitched to a 2.93 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, a .190 batting average against and an even six strikeouts per walk rate over 15 ⅓ innings.

Lovasz ranks second in their stable of relievers with 17 innings pitched. Over that body of work, he owns a 3.71 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and a .212 opponent’s batting average. He owns rates of 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.28 strikeouts per walk. He has also recorded a save.

After Lovasz, based on usage rate, McRae will likely turn to Lottchea and Kelly. They are the only pitchers on the roster with fewer strikeouts than innings pitched in at least five frames of work. Despite being the lone finesse guy on a power-pitching team, Lottchea owns a 3.37 ERA in 10 ⅔ innings. Kelly has struck out 10 in 10 ⅓ innings pitched and owns a 3.48 ERA despite a .286 batting average against.

Calveric and Garnett round out the list of effective arms, but they have small sample sizes. Calveric owns a 3.12 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, a .212 batting average against and an 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings rate over 8 ⅔ frames. Garnett has totaled just 5 ⅔ innings, but has been nasty and whiffed 11 batters while allowing just one hit. However, he has walked five hitters.

Relief pitcher Reed Interdonato may also appear for William & Mary, as his 16 innings pitched are the third most in its bullpen. He was a starting pitcher at Monmouth over the last two years and owns a career 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings rate, which is currently at a career-high 11.8 this year. However, he has struggled to a 6.19 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP.

This is not a good matchup for Stony Brook, as its offense has not figured much out. The Seawolves’ .255 team batting average and 5.2 runs per game both rank third worst in the CAA. Their .340 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage are both the second-worst figures in the conference. They have only hit nine home runs, which is tied for the fewest in the league, while the Tribe have only allowed eight — the lowest amount by far.

The problems get deeper for Stony Brook, as second baseman Evan Fox — its leadoff hitter — is out with a dislocated left shoulder and a slight tear of his labrum. Head coach Matt Senk expects him back in time, but not for this series. Fox is second on the team with 15 runs scored, owns a .350 on-base percentage and is tied for fifth in the CAA with eight steals in as many tries. His four doubles are tied for the third most on the team.

Instead, the two-way freshman phenom — Erik Paulsen — will have to continue to be big for the Seawolves. As a first baseman — who is usually used as a designated hitter — and a relief pitcher, Paulsen has been excellent. His .411/.469/.625 slash line leads the team, as do his six doubles and two home runs. His 11 runs batted in (RBI) ranks second on the team.

The only run-producer better than Paulsen is left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring, who is slashing .361/.420/.500 with five doubles, a triple, two homers and 15 RBIs.

After those two, the pleasant surprise has been center fielder Cam Santerre. He has done a good job setting the table for Brown-Eiring and Paulsen with a .304 batting average and a .467 on-base percentage. He has shown good discipline at the plate and a willingness to get beaned for his team, as he has drawn seven walks and been hit by seven pitches. He has also added two doubles, two triples and a home run to give himself a .500 slugging percentage.

Behind the .300 hitters are a bunch of guys looking to get or stay hot. First baseman Brett Paulsen is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .360 over that time, raising his average to .262 on the season. He leads the team with 10 walks, giving him a .366 on-base percentage. Right fielder Rob Taylor is batting .265 and slugging .471 with four doubles, a home run and eight RBIs in 11 games played.

The rest of Stony Brook’s regulars are not hitting. Catchers Ryan Micheli and Nick Solorzano have done the bulk of the catching, with the latter being often used as a designated hitter. Micheli is batting .250 right now with one RBI, while Solorzano is hitting .233 with a .546 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Third baseman Evan Goforth and shortstop Matt Miceli both own a .200 batting average and a .534 OPS.

One Seawolf who will need to step up is second baseman Johnny Pilla, who will be starting in place of Fox. He has played there regularly while Fox has played in center field and has been up and down. Pilla is slashing just .231/.302/.436, but he has shown some power with two doubles and two homers.

If it were not for Stony Brook’s pitching, things would be much worse for it. Starting pitchers Eddie Smink, Nick Rizzo and J.T. Raab have been the team’s saving grace, while Erik Paulsen has been elite out of the bullpen.

Over 28 ⅓ innings, Smink is seventh in the CAA with a 2.86 ERA and boasts a 1.24 WHIP, a .238 batting average against, a 3.2 strikeouts per walk and a 10.2 strikeouts per nine rate. His 32 strikeouts are the third most in the league. Rizzo has been excellent as a freshman and leads the Seawolves with 31 innings and 6.2 frames per start. He has pitched to a 3.48 ERA and a team-leading 1.16 WHIP this year.

As for Raab, he recently earned the third-starter role and has done well overall between long-relief outings and his starts. His 3.15 ERA is the second-best number on the team over 20 innings pitched, while his 1.25 WHIP is third best. Paulsen has sparkled to a 2.35 ERA and has recorded a pair of saves as the team’s top bullpen arm.

After Paulsen, there are some questions in Stony Brook’s reliever pool. Relief pitcher Ty Saunders has struggled to a 7.89 ERA, a 1.52 WHIP and a .277 batting average against. However, he is coming off the best outing of his career, where he tossed four scoreless innings and struck out four while scattering two hits. Left-handed relief pitcher Colton Book is still looking to come into form, but owns just a 9.49 ERA, a 2.00 WHIP and a .315 opponent’s batting average across 13 innings.

William & Mary’s bats have had a red-hot start to the year, as it ranks third in the CAA with a .301 team batting average, second with 9.5 runs per game and tied for fourth with 26 home runs. As a collective, the Tribe lead the conference with a .454 on-base percentage.

Their offense is spearheaded by left fielder Joe Delossantos and center fielder Ben Parker, as they co-lead the team with a .392 batting average.

Delossantos also owns a .528 on-base percentage and a .646 slugging percentage while collecting five doubles, five home runs, 25 RBIs and 11 steals in as many tries. Parker has hit six doubles, two triples, seven home runs and driven in 24 while owning an on-base percentage of .547 and a slugging of .785. He has also swiped six bags without being caught.

Behind them come right fielder Henry Jackson — who also plays first base — and designated hitter Lucas Carmichael. Jackson is batting .372, while Carmichael is hitting .311 with six doubles.

After the .300 hitters come a vast group of solid regulars. First baseman Jerry Barnes III — who is also used as a designated hitter when Carmichael plays left field — is slashing .286/.481/.464 with four doubles, two homers and 19 RBIs. Second baseman Luca Trigiani is batting .279 with a .400 on-base percentage and has driven in 21 runs. First baseman Anthony Greco is hitting .278 with a .391 on-base percentage and 16 RBIs.

Catcher Nate Goranson is slashing .275/.471/.510 with three doubles, three home runs and 15 runs driven in. Third baseman Kevin Francella has been a good tablesetter as well, batting .270 with a .400 on-base percentage.

Off the bench, William & Mary remains lethal. Catcher Witt Scafidi has only played in nine games, but he is hitting .353 with a .593 on-base percentage. Shortstop Josiah Seguin has become a regular in the starting lineup and is slashing .296/.457/.667 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Backup first baseman Jakob Cohn has hit safely in five of 17 (.294) at-bats. Right fielder Christian Rush has flexed his power despite a .211 batting average, as his two homers and one double in just 19 at-bats have given him nine RBIs and a 1.023 OPS.

Given the depth of the Tribe’s arms and bats, the Seawolves’ run through the CAA gauntlet may not begin on the right foot.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson
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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